At a time when tour bookings to Kashmir have been witnessing large-scale cancellations due to the prevailing cross-border tension and boycott calls across country in various places, Kashmir’s tourism players have decided to join hands to find ways for ‘saving’ the loss-making industry.
Several associations of tour operators and hoteliers said they will hold a joint meeting this weekend to discuss the ongoing decline in the tourism industry due to the fragile situation.
Speaking with Greater Kashmir, general secretary of Travel Agents Society of Kashmir, Athar Yameen said tourism players under an umbrella body will be meeting to formulate a “damage control” mode. “From Maharashtra to Gujarat and even West Bengal, there is no place where outside tour operators have not given a boycott call to Kashmir as a tourism destination. There has been complete inaction from state government for coming to rescue of tourism industry, so we have decided to jointly work to find-out some ways to save this sector in case situation allows us,” said Yameen.
Hussain Khan, who owns The Chinar Resort and Spa at Pahalgam says amid 70-80 percent cancellations, there is now no option for tourism and hospitality industry players but to work together for finding ways to ensure that Kashmir does not “vanish” from the world tourism map.
“The way things have been unfolding for Kashmir is unfortunate. Some of the associations of tour operators and hoteliers have now decided to brainstorm over how we can save this industry so we would be holding a joint meeting,” said Khan.
Ashfaq Siddiq Dug, president of Travel Agents Association of Kashmir says tour operators were hoping to cash-in on the Tulip and almond bloom season beginning later this month but added that with the prevailing situation “the spring season seems to have become a dampener”. “Just one year ago during the same time we had a major tourism conference and Travel Agents Association of India had declared 2018 as “The Kashmir Year”. But nothing is falling in place now,” says Dug. “The ongoing situation and war hysteria has done us irreparable damage but we want to make efforts so that this industry is saved,” says Dug. Apart from local tour operators, some travel players from outside the valley are also working to counter the “total boycott” of the Valley called by their counterparts outside.
Speaking with Greater Kashmir from Pune, Zelam Chaubal, Director, Kesari Tours says she is against her counterparts who despite having been doing business in the Valley for decades are now issuing “boycott diktats”. “Government needs to create conducive atmosphere to overcome trust deficit among intending tourists and tour operators. We are all fond of Kashmir and will withstand any efforts to mislabel its people,” says Chaubal. However as per Mushtaq Chaya, president JK Hoteliers Club, the industry is resting all its hopes on a long term solution to the Kashmir issue so that peace can prevail. “We are trying our best to prove hospitable to tourists who were stuck here. After 14 February tourism has been hit badly with maximum cancellations but we hope for a sustained dialogue,” said Chaya.