Srinagar: Smiles have returned on the faces of tour operators after tourist activities started picking up in Kashmir.
For the first time in 15 months, tour operators are receiving booking enquiries for winter holidays in the valley.
President Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) Farooq Ahmad Kuthoo told The Kashmir Monitor that the valley’s tourism industry is taking baby steps towards normalcy as enquires have started coming from Gujarat and Maharashtra.
“Enquiries have started coming, though many may not materialize. But the good thing is that people are thinking to travel to Kashmir after spending eight months under lockdown. International tourism hasn’t resumed, so Kashmir can become an alternative,” he said.
Tourism in Kashmir took a back seat post-August 5, 2019 when the government abrogated article 370. Kashmir was under lockdown for at least five months with no access to high-speed internet and broadband services.
While tourists had started visiting the valley in January and February, the Covid-19 pandemic reversed the process.
Tour operators are expecting a spurt in bookings as MET has forecasted the first snowfall in a few days’ time.
“There has been an advisory for snowfall this week and it can be the biggest attraction for the tourists,” he said.
Elated by the response, the tour operators are now planning to launch a marketing blitzkrieg to attract tourists to Kashmir.
“So far we are conducting virtual marketing by holding webinars and other promotional events. By next month we will begin our aggressive marketing. Our members would travel to various states to promote Kashmir as the best winter destination,” Kuthoo said.
Umar Ahmad, a travel agent said they have announced discounted packages to increase the footfall this winter.
“The airfare is also low and we too have offered discounts to the tourists. We have appealed to the administration to ensure that the tourists with Covid-19 negative report are allowed to visit the valley,” he said.
An official from the tourism department said that many promotional events are in the pipeline to lure tourists back to Kashmir.
“Recently some travel agents visited Kashmir. They have promised to sell Kashmir to tourists. We have been conducting virtual promotions. Plus many programmes will be held in the coming month across India,” he said.