Tourists from Bengal overfly troubled Kashmir
Kashmir’s loss seems to be Himachal and, closer home, Dooars’ gain. Most tourists cancelling their Srinagar and Pahelgam bookings are opting for destinations like Kulu-Manali.kolkata Updated: Sep 21, 2016 09:47 IST
Even as the battle rages between India and Pakistan over the Uri attack and its aftermath, Kashmir has had its first casualty in this terror season, and it is tourism. And the timing could not have been worse.
Over the last few years, tourists were steadily streaming back to the Paradise on Earth, thanks to a falling graph of terrorist activity. Bengal was no exception. But thousands of tourists from this state who had made elaborate plans to visit Kashmir during this Puja vacation are now in a mad rush to cancel their bookings.
Incidentally, Kashmir’s loss seems to be Himachal and, closer home, Dooars’ gain. Most tourists cancelling their Srinagar and Pahelgam bookings are opting for destinations like Kulu-Manali or the green paradise in North Bengal.
“Although Uri does not fall on the tourist route, those who had planned to visit Kashmir this Pujas are completely shaken after the Uri attack… almost all the bookings have been cancelled. It seems that not even 10 per cent of those who booked Kashmir tour packages will finally make it this time,” said Kaushik Kar, president of the Travel Agents Association of Bengal.
The Kashmir government’s tourist office in Kolkata too is feeling the heat. Executives at the office are getting flooded with calls every day. “But the saddest part of the story is that we are unable to give them any update as telephone communication with Kashmir is down for 74 days now,” said the duty officer there.
“Even our assistant tourist officer, AB Aziz, who went to his home town to celebrate Eid has got stuck there,” the officer added.
Madan Agarwal, the owner of Diamond Tours and Travels, had organised a Kashmir tour package for 65 families this Puja season. All the bookings have been cancelled.
“During this time last year, we had booked Kashmir holiday packages for more than 125 families. This time, the figure was almost half till early September. And after the Uri episode, most of these bookings too have been cancelled. One family has lost Rs 60,000 spent on air fare because it is non-refundable,” Agarwal told HT.