SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department is to substitute Malaysia with Saudi Arabia and UAE on its tourism promotion campaign in response to the island nation’s support to Pakistan over the Kashmir issue.
India’s ties with Malaysia have been strained ever since it joined Turkey in supporting Pakistan’s position on Kashmir at the United Nations. However, tour and travel operators are not happy.
The department had actively wooed tourists from several East Asian countries to visit the picturesque Valley and tourist inflows had picked up considerably from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and other such nations.
According to officials, while small number of tourists from US and European countries visit the Valley every year, the number of tourists from Malaysia was about 8000 of a total of 40,000 foreign tourists visiting the valley.
Tour and travel operators said dropping Malaysia from the promotion list would affect tourism.
“Tourism should not be linked with politics. These are two different fields. There are apprehensions that the Indian government may make travel to Valley difficult for Malaysian tourists by adding some more conditions to obtain a tourist visa. If that happens, the tourist flow will be diverted to Europe and would mean a big loss for us,” they said.
Tour operators are also not enthused by the department’s move to promote Saudia Arabia. “We don’t expect much tourist inflow to Kashmir from Saudi,” they said.
Director Tourism Kashmir Nisar Ahmad Wani said the department is planning to hold roadshows in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to attract tourists to Valley next year.