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Pulwama attack, Indo-Pak acrimony dent Kashmir tourism

Srinagar, Feb 28: The ongoing acrimony between India and Pakistan has dented the tourism sector in Kashmir as 80 per cent of the bookings have been cancelled in the last week.

Post Pulwama suicide bombing of February 14, in which 49 paramilitary troopers were killed, a war-like situation exists between the two nuclear-armed countries.

 

The attack also led to an anti-Kashmir wave in India.

Kashmiri students and businessmen in other states were at the receiving end facing harassment, violence and threats to vacate the places.

In midst of the brewing situation, the tourists here cut short their visits, while most of those who had intended to travel to the valley in upcoming months, decided to change or cancel their plans.

The air strikes by India and Pakistan against each other since Tuesday has further impacted the prospects of the upcoming tourism season as many agents have called for skipping Kashmir packages.

President Travel Agents Association of Kashmir, Ashfaq Ahmed Dugg, told The Kashmir Monitor that nearly 80 per cent of the bookings for Kashmir were cancelled in the last one week.

“Bookings for months including March and April have all been cancelled. There has been a vicious propaganda on TV channels against the safety of tourists in Kashmir, which triggered the cancellation of bookings by the tourists,” Ashfaq said.

He added that a huge chunk of tourists from states including Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal in India and Malaysia and Bangkok prefer to visit Kashmir during the spring season, however, the war-mongering and the anti-Kashmir rhetoric has spoiled those prospects.

“Kashmir has been the only place where tourists felt safe even during the peak of violence. However, even after it, every year we have to fight against the negative portrayal of the valley. We hope the situation improves and more tourists prefer to visit Kashmir,” Ashfaq said.
Umar Ahmad, a Srinagar-based tour operator, said that the majority of the tourists have sought the refund of their bookings.

“We usually seek 50 per cent payment on confirmation of a booking. But, as of now, all we are doing is refunding as many travel agents have boycotted sending tourists to Kashmir,” he said.

Prominent hotelier, Faiz Bakshi said the occupancy in hotels and houseboats have alarmingly dipped post-Pulwama attack amid cries of war between Pakistan and India.“We already had a bleak winter season. Whatever expectation we had for the spring is lost. There was massive cancellation of bookings in the last few weeks and at least two months will be impacted now,” he said.

To mention, soon after the Pulwama attack, scores of political and right-wing Hindu outfits called for boycotting Kashmir tourism even as the people of the valley faced a spate of violence and harassment in other states of India.

Kashmir tourism has been witnessing a slump in arrivals since 2014, as tourists preferred other destinations over the valley due to worsening of the decades-old political conflict in the region.