SRINAGAR: Even after the first snowfall this month, the tourism sector in Kashmir is going through one of its worst phases as towns like Gulmarg are wearing a deserted look in the absence of tourists. Travel agents have been requesting the authorities to lift the ban on internet services and prepaid mobile services, for the arrival of tourists to resume in the Valley. Amid anger brewing among families related to this trade, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu has asked the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department to conduct road shows outside the Union Territory (UT) to attract tourists, especially after snowfall.
Murmu, in several meetings, had asked officials to ensure safety of tourists and coordinate with security and police agencies to ensure that all requisite facilities are available in every tourist destination for the convenience of tourists. He has assured that the Centre will soon announce a comprehensive plan for the revival of economy in the freshly-created UT of Jammu and Kashmir, including the revival of tourism.
While the L-G is hopeful of tourist influx, the tourism industry believes that the Centre is deliberately not lifting the ban. “Given the present circumstances, no tourist will come to Kashmir. The government will have to make the presence of forces less on streets and restore prepaid mobile and internet services. Without this, all attempts to revive tourism will yield no results,” Junaid Shafi, a local travel agent, said.
Murmu also asked the administration to set up counters across major railway stations and airports and suggested engagement of tourist guides in different areas for facilitation of tourists.
Local tourism officials told the media that they were ready with all facilities, but even then, the tourists were not coming. “We have had a very poor footfall of tourists in November. The government will have to lift curbs on internet and restore prepaid mobile services in Kashmir for arrival of tourists,” a senior tourism official told this reporter.
The government had issued an advisory to tourists on 3 August, asking them to leave Kashmir as soon as possible citing the threat of terrorists. However, the advisory was lifted in October, but even after that, arrival of tourists has been very low.