The series of grenade attacks on tourists on Tuesday had a big impact on Wednesday with tourist inflow dropping by a whopping 50 per cent. Tourism department officials said between 1,500-1,800 visitors come to Srinagar on a daily basis “but today, it was a dismal day. It was less than half of that number”.
Several houseboat owners and hoteliers in the Dal Lake area said expected guests had called to cancel their bookings. “Cancellation went up to around 30 per cent,” said an office-bearer of the Houseboat Owners’ Association.
The latest attack in Gulmarg made matters worse. “Gulmarg was regarded as the safest place in the Valley. It is a high-security place and few thought militants would reach it,” said Gazanfar Ahmad, a travel agent. “It is now quite impossible to convince a tourist to visit Kashmir,” he rued.
Several hoteliers in Gulmarg admitted that their guests were afraid and many of them were in a hurry to leave the very next day. “We have had full occupancy for over a week. But many of our guests have now decided to check out prematurely in the wake of today’s grenade attack.
We are pleading with them that this is an isolated incident but they are in no mood to buy our argument,” said Zahoor Ahmad, a hotel manager.
“If militants can reach Gulmarg, then no place in Kashmir is safe is the common refrain among tourists,” he said. The fear psychosis is so bad that even the normally adventurous Bengali tourists are wary of making a trip to Kashmir. Private tour operators in Kolkata on Wednesday cancelled almost all such tours, unwilling to risk the safety of tourists.
“At a meeting, we decided to cancel even scheduled trips for which bookings have already been made. From now on, we will promote anything but Kashmir. It’s a strict no-no for all operators of the city now,” said Indrajit Bagga, owner of Zoomer Swift Travels.
“We have returned the money to all who booked trips for Kashmir during the puja vacations. We will incur losses, no doubt, but it is more important to be safe,” said Nikhil Mukherjee of Bird’s Eye View Travels.
This agency cancelled five trips scheduled for October to December. Travel agents are also a tad upset with the attitude of the Kashmir tourism department, which had promised a lot in terms of safety of tourists but has been founding wanting.