SRINAGAR: Domestic tourist inflow to strife-torn Kashmir has declined by nearly four lakh this year compared to last year. The tourism stakeholders have blamed the GST regime and negative campaign by electronic TV channels for the drop in tourist inflow.
A tourism department official said that 775716 domestic tourists visited Kashmir this year. He said most of the domestic tourists came from south India, including Chennai, Bangalore, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, etc.
“As against 775176 domestic tourists this year, the Valley received 11.96 lakh visitors last year,” revealed official statistics.
Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Alliance chairman Manzoor Pakhtoon blamed GST and negative publicity by the national media for the drop in numbers. “GST implementation is hurting our tourism sector,” Pakhtoon said.
“High-end tourists have been significantly impacted by GST. Five-star hotels charge 28 per cent GST. Besides, five per cent is being charged by local tour operators and another five percent by the operator who sold the package,” Travel Agents Association of India - J&K chapter chairman Zahoor Ahmad Qari said, adding the high-end tourists have to pay 38 per cent tax for visiting Kashmir.
Also, air tickets are costly during the peak season and this prompts domestic tourists to consider travelling abroad.
Qari and Pakhtoon urged the central government to exempt Kashmir from GST and regulate air fares.
Pakhtoon alleged that there is a local advisory for North Indian tourists, including Gujarat and Maharashtra, not to visit Kashmir.
Qari said that the law and order situation has also played spoilsport. He said in Gujarat and Pune and Nagpur in Maharashtra, tour operators have been asked not to promote Kashmir. “These places were major contributors as domestic tourists,” he said.
He said now tour operators in Kashmir have also changed the strategy and are holding road shows and publicity campaign in south India to woo tourists. “The tourist inflow from south India increased this year and we hope it increases further next year,” he said.