The government has claimed that there is massive overcharging and “exploitation” of tourists by Transporters, Hoteliers and Pony wallas. In an official statement, the UT government said that the same shall not be allowed as it affects the tourism sector. Besides, it said there has to be uniform and fixed rates for services at every tourist destination to stop fleecing of tourists. Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Pandurang K Pole chaired a major meeting on fixation of rates with concerned officers. The meeting was attended by Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, Deputy Commissioner Bandipora, Additional Deputy Commissioner Ananatnag and CEOs of Gulmarg Development Authority, Sonmarg Development Authority and Pahalgam Development Authority through video conferencing and Additional Commissioner Kashmir, Managing Director JKTDC and other officer. On the occasion, Div Com impressed on the officers that rates for transport vehicles, hotels and ponies need to be fixed permanently and uniformly to check on the overcharging of tourists. He added that reasonable rates shall only be charged from tourists to address the complaints received from tourists regarding overcharging. In this regard, a meeting will be convened soon to fix the rates for vehicles, hotels, pony-wallas, snow scooters and alternate vehicles. Div Com enjoined on the officers that rates for all services should be displayed at tourist places including telephone numbers to be used by tourists for registering complaints. If the claims of overcharging are true, the government is right in making things correct. In this regard, the J&K Tourism department must ensure that a uniform rate-list is publicly announced and it is ensured that all the tourism stakeholders follow it religiously. In the current situation, it is imperative that we must not besmirch the hospitality we are so famous for and any tourist visiting Kashmir must leave with far more respect and regard for this valley and its people than he or she had before coming here. Tourism is indeed a backbone of the Kashmir economy. The influx of tourists in Kashmir has started rising gradually months after the tourism sector came to a halt following the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the country last year. With relaxations in the COVID norms, people from across the country are heading to the union territory for a leisurely experience. Before the pandemic, people from across the world visited the union territory proving it standing as a “paradise” tourist destination. The tourism sector in Kashmir was hit badly by the pandemic and faced huge losses. Several measures were taken up in the union territory to curb the infection including setting up COVID care centres, oxygen plants and carrying out awareness drives. As the infection rate slowed, the administration organised several festivals to promote tourism. A three-day festival — Aao Kashmir — was organised in Zabarwan park on the banks of Dal lake. For augmenting the tourism sector, the Department of Tourism will organise an iconic tourist festival from October 23 to October 29.