SRI NAGAR: After Kashmir lost this tourism season due to the clampdown and shutdown following the scrapping of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories on August 5, the state government is eyeing a better tourist season in 2020 and is taking measures to improve the footfall to the picturesque Valley in autumn and winter.
As a first step, the government on October 7 lifted the security advisory issued on August 2 asking tourists to leave Kashmir. The decision has brought some hope to the stakeholders of the tourism industry in the Valley, who have incurred heavy losses in past nearly two months. However, they say this step alone cannot bring tourists back and restoration of mobile and internet services are a must.
Abdul Samad, a hotelier, said the government should lift communication clampdown and restore mobile and internet services so that travellers intending to visit the Valley can remain in touch with their family members.
Another hotelier, Riyaz Ahmad, said, “It is not possible within a few days or months to undo the damage caused by the advisory.” The continuous shutdown and communication clampdown made it difficult for the players to woo tourists to the Valley, he added.
President of the Hotel Association of Kashmir, Asif Burza, too, is sceptical. He said withdawing the security advisory would be helpful but unless communication clampdown was lifted, there could be no revival of tourism. “Tourists will avoid travelling in view of the prevailing situation and continued suspension of mobile and internet,” Burza said.
“Who will prefer to visit the place where from they cannot communicate to their family members?” asked a travel and tour operator. Another tour operator, Zahoor Ahmad, said, “How would we reach out to the intending travellers in view of the communication clampdown? The tour operators need mobile and internet facility to woo the tourists to Kashmir.”
The tour and travel operators recently held a meeting with top government officials chaired by J&K Principal Secretary (Industries, Commerce and Tourism) Navin Choudhary. A tour operator said they apprised the officials about the measures that needed to be taken for the revival of tourism in the Valley. They have demanded restoration of mobile and internet service, five-year tax holiday for the tourism sector, loan waiver to tourist players, and relaxation in GST.
A top official said the government was eyeing a better tourism season in 2020. Terming the lifting of the security advisory as a huge confidence-building measure, the official said it would send a message that tourists were welcome once again in Kashmir.