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Kashmir tourism facing worst phase this year

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Srinagar:  There are no takers for the visit of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to Kashmir from the tourist trade as most of them believe that BJP government at Centre was responsible for almost nil flow of tourists here during the current year. Most of the tourism players and thousands of families connected with this trade are sitting idle during the current season.

Negative publicity and magnifying the militancy-related events have brought lakhs of people in Kashmir to virtual starvation as there is no tourism in this year. Most of the Kashmir-based tourist players have perception that Modi-led government at Centre and BJP-led governments in Gujarat and Maharashtra have discouraged people to come to Kashmir. They narrate lot of stories about Amarnath yatries even having instructions not to buy anything in Kashmir and not to go for any stay in Srinagar or Dal Lake as this money would reach to terrorists. This growing mindset according to Kashmir tourism players has destroyed the industry in the Valley and has impacted lives of about 11 lakh people who are connected directly or indirectly with this trade.

Even the during the peak of militancy in early nineties, house-boat owners used to get international and domestic clients during the summer season. According to house-boat owners and hoteliers of Kashmir, this is the worst phase they have ever seen in the tourism industry of Kashmir.

Already 70% of staff has been laid-off and many hotels and house-boats have been closed down as during this summer so far they have not even encountered even a single tourist. Thousands of people connected with this trade are facing worst hardships and many young persons who had joined tourism industry are virtually on the streets as many important hotels have partially closed down their operations in Kashmir.

One of the tourism players who accompanied Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to different States as the J&K Government tried its best to reverse the negative impact of the news channels, said that in the private conversations, many important tourism players clearly said they will not send tourists to Kashmir and they clearly told us that we were helping militants.

Hundreds of hotels and restaurants besides registered 925 house-boat owners are feeling dejected by the political uncertainty and the new communal behavior of tourism players in the rest of the country towards Kashmir. “They should allow us to use trans-border route to get tourists if they are not interested in Kashmir. We have been locked from all sides. Government should atleast allow us to get tourists from anywhere be it Pakistan or China”, said a group of angry hoteliers who have huge loans to pay and have also liability of staff and they have not been able to pay them.

Recently Central Government sanctioned Rs.2000 crores under Prime Minister Development Package for the tourism sector in J&K State. But Kashmir tourist players are not amused. They claimed that this money would be spent in Ladakh and Jammu regions. They said that recently the Central Government told in Parliament that there is increase in the tourist footfall in J&K State, which is true about Ladakh and Jammu regions. They are not bothered about us and they want to kill us economically and the growing communalism is the biggest huddle for tourists to come to Kashmir. “I heard myself yatries telling each other at Sonamarg not to buy anything from the locals and not to visit Srinagar as it will enrich terrorists of Kashmir”, said a driver who was accompanying them from Jammu. Solid waste in tons is the only visible achievement of Amarnath yatra both at Sonamarg base camp and at Pahalgam said Shahnawaz Ahmad a local who is very angry with no tourist season.

Such attitude of yatries and the overall discouragement to the tourists to visit Kashmir is showing visible impact on the ground. The J&K Tourism Department and Corporation gave 50% rebate on their properties during the current season for the tourists, but results are zero. Even the State Tourism Officials admit that communal mindset is the biggest huddle for the tourists to visit Kashmir.

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