Cancellations hit Kashmir tourism

Srinagar (IANS) The prevailing law and order situation has dealt a serious blow to tourism in Kashmir as hoteliers, travel agents and houseboat owners say “a flood of cancellations of bookings” has struck them.

Talking to IANS here Friday, Rouf Tramboo, president of Travel Agents’ Association of Kashmir (TAAK) said: “Since the middle of February, things started changing. Normally, the tourist season starts from March and April.”

“Most of the bookings for these two months have already been cancelled. Nearly 30 percent to 40 percent of bookings for coming months have been cancelled so far.

“Bookings from May onwards, which we still have, are also threatened, as the media hypes the fidayeen attack in Srinagar,” Tramboo said.

“We had two wonderful tourist seasons in 2011 and 2012, but things appear bleak for this year, and that has us worried,” he said.

Vikas Yadav, general manager of the high-end Taj Vivanta Resorts in Srinagar, says bookings for March and April have been washed out.

“We were scheduled to host four international conferences during these two months. All of them now stand cancelled. Besides this, a Bollywood film unit arriving here this month has also cancelled its visit. Unless things start improving fast, we fear really bad times,” Yadav said.

Abdul Aziz Tuman, chairman of Kashmir Houseboat Owners’ Association, has an even more bleak view of things: “We are faced with a flood of cancellations. The fidayeen attack comes as a blow to us. March and April are already wiped out, as far as houseboat bookings are concerned. The moment our phones start ringing, we fear it’s another booking cancellation.”

“Unless God comes to our rescue, we are in for really bad times. To make matters worse, the state government has increased electric power tariffs etc. We are also burdened by other taxes. Perhaps the government believes we have made enough money during the last two seasons and they must milk us fast before we hit the bottom”, a worried Tuman told IANS.

Shamim Shah, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir chapter of the Travel Agents’ Association of India (TAAI) does not appear to be less worried than others, but he expects the media to behave more responsibly while reporting about Kashmir.

“The way the media is reporting the present situation, people intending to visit Kashmir would naturally develop cold feet. Don’t we know that even during the curfew hours, tourists are allowed to move around and visit places in the Valley? Nobody reports that,” Shah said, adding: “Unless all of us behave responsibly and stop projecting things as if a war is going on in Kashmir, how can tourists be expected to come here?”

“Yes, right now we are being flooded with cancellations. Unless things start returning to normal, the Valley, despite its breathtaking beauty, could find no visitors, leading to a shrinkage of the tourism industry,” Shah said.

The local tourism department’s slogan is: “No matter how many times you visit Kashmir, you can never have enough of it.” As the state government focuses on law and order, Kashmir’s snow-clad mountains, murmuring streams, highland meadows and glistening lakes continue to beckon the more intrepid tourists.

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