Friday, May 11, 2018

To regain trust, J&K tour operators calling tourists


PUNE: Sadanand Waghmare was looking forward to a family vacation in Kashmir. That is, till Monday, when a tourist from Chennai was killed in a stone pelting incident. Shocked, Waghmare had almost cancelled his travel plans but decided to visit the Valley after all when the tour operator from Srinagar contacted him directly, giving an assurance of safety.

Waghmare, who reached Srinagar, said, “After Monday’s incident, we were uncertain about our tour and were on the verge of cancelling it. But, our tour operator assured us of safety and we decided not to scrap the Kashmir plan. We have visited several famous spots here at Srinagar without any issue.” But many others have not been dissuaded yet. Jammu and Kashmir, which is a popular summer destination, is now trying hard to regain the tourists’ confidence.

Suleman Shaikh, a Srinagar-based tour operator, talked to over the phone. “The death was unfortunate, but it was an isolated incident. Since tourism is the backbone of the state’s economy, there seems to be a deliberate attempt by anti-national elements to disrupt peace here and to dissuade the tourists. Therefore, to avoid losses, we are directly getting in touch with our clients to reassure them of their safety.”

Ashfaq Siddiq, the president Travel Agents’ Association Kashmir (TAAK), said, “The state’s tourism business has been suffering for the past two years. This year, we have had a positive response, but this incident has again sent a negative message to the rest of the country. Why would people plan a trip in such conditions? We have told our operators to work hard to gain the confidence of the tourists.”

The Jammu and Kashmir government too has launched efforts to enhance the security at popular tourist destinations, mostly located close to Srinagar. Mehmood Shah, the Jammu and Kashmir tourism director, said, “We get the maximum number of tourists from Maharashtra and Gujarat. Most of them are from Pune and Mumbai. As a result, we have told the local tour operators to establish contact with the tourists. Also, we have decided to enhance the security at famous places to avert any untoward incident.”

However, tour operators from Pune said a significant number of tourists have already cancelled their Kashmir plans due to the volatile situation there. Nilesh Bhansali, the director of Travel Agents’ Association of Pune (TAAP), said, “People from the city prefer the Northeast destinations over J&K mainly due to security concerns. Despite the availability of hotels in J&K, people rarely show interest in travelling to the state.”


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