SRINAGAR – Tourism stakeholders in Kashmir are not upbeat about the revival of the sector even after the state government withdrew its security advisory of August 2 which had asked tourists in the Valley to leave.
In that advisory issued days before the Centre announced abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories, the state government had asked the tourists in the valley to curtail their stay.
The advisory led to the exodus of tourists from Kashmir and had a huge impact on the sector. After the Centre scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5, the valley was shut and has since been in a lockdown, leading to losses to stakeholders in the peak tourist season.
On October 9, the state government withdrew the security advisory, saying the tourists desirous of undertaking a visit to the state, would be provided all necessary assistance and logistical support.
However, tourism stakeholders in Kashmir are not impressed.
“This would help, but the complete revival of the tourism in Kashmir is not possible until and unless the restrictions on the communication are lifted,” Asif Burza, president of a hotel industry association of Kashmir, told PTI.
He said tourists are likely to avoid travelling to Kashmir due to the prevailing situation and the continued suspension of mobile and internet services in the valley.
Bilal Ahmad, a Shikara owner in the famous Dal Lake, said the months of September and October are the peak season in the valley because of a rush of tourists from various states especially West Bengal due to Puja holidays, which the valley has lost.
There is no hope of a brisk arrival of visitors due to the prevailing situation, he claimed.
“The season is gone. This time around, the Dal lake used to be full of tourists. But see around, this place looks deserted. I do not see many of them coming as the situation is such,” Ahmad said.
A tour operator, who did not wish to be identified, said organising bookings and other logistical support for the tourists would be extremely difficult due to restrictions on mobile and internet services.
“We cannot reach the tourists and they cannot reach us. How do we know which tourist has booked for Kashmir? How do hotels know about the arrival of the tourists? All this happens systematically and in the absence of the mobile and internet services, all this becomes extremely difficult,” he said.
The tour operator said the government needs to restore mobile and internet, even if only leased-line or BSNL’s broadband services, to ensure logistical support to the tourists intending to visit the valley.
He said there are other issues like safety and security which the government needs to take care of.
The stakeholders said they have brought such issues to the notice of the government and expressed hope that the administration would address those issues.
“Tourism in Kashmir is on ventilator and needs serious help. The government has assured us that it will look into these issues,” Burza said.