With the tourist season in the Kashmir valley having almost set in, the adverse travel advisories of Britain, US and various European countries to their citizens against visiting the valley are causing concern among those connected with the tourism industry. The Jammu and Kashmir government is equally upset over these adverse travel advisories.
Most of the travel advisories have asked their citizens not to travel to the valley "due to the ongoing political violence in the state". This has however made a large number of foreign tourists head towards the frontier region of Ladakh.
Tourism industry particularly in the valley has been badly hit due to these advisories that the respective countries have over the years refused to withdraw despite decline in incidents of terrorism. The European tourists are considered to be a high spending segment that had earlier helped tourism grow in the valley.
These countries had asked their citizens not to visit J&K following kidnapping and subsequent killing of some foreign tourists by ultras in the valley. However, some of these countries have relaxed the advisories for visit to Ladakh and Jammu but only by air mode to reach the destinations.
The recently updated advisory by the United Kingdom says, "We advise against all travel to rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir other than Ladakh, all travel in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan. We advise against all but essential travel to Srinagar. If you do travel to these areas then you should only do so by air".
Tourism minister Rigzin Jora said that the state government was planning to invite diplomats of various countries to Kashmir and see for them the drastic change in the violence. "They would be persuaded to get the travel advisories of their respective countries relaxed" Jora said.
Diplomats of about 30 countries visited Kashmir last year on the invitation of the state government. They visited different parts of the valley and participated in a golf tournament organised for them.
"The situation in Kashmir has improved drastically with the terror incidents on the decline. I see no reason as to why these countries have not relaxed their advisories," said Jora.
"I had requested foreign diplomats to lower down their advisories, but nothing has been done in this regard so far," he said.
The advisory of United States says "the department of State strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid travel to Jammu & Kashmir (with the exception of visits to the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh) because of the potential for terrorist incidents as well as violent public unrest".
It further says that a number of terrorist groups operate in the state, targeting security forces that are present throughout the region, particularly along the Line of Control (LOC) separating Indian and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, and those stationed in the primary tourist destinations in the Kashmir Valley: Srinagar, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam".
The state government had made several attempts earlier to get the travel advisories relaxed. During the tenure of Mufti Sayeed as Chief Minister, a high level delegation from the state visited various countries to persuade them to withdraw the advisories. However, the exercise proved futile.