By: Afaq Bhat
Srinagar: As the COVID-19 cases are witnessing a decline, J&K’s Tourism Department has launched a campaign to attract tourists to Kashmir.
Recently a team comprising officials from the Tourism Department visited Chennai and held a series of meetings with the representatives of the tour and travel industry of Tamil Nadu. The team apprised them about the changing scenario in the Valley and tried to convince these operators to project Jammu and Kashmir as a safe tourist destination.
Attempt made by the officials was hailed by the Chennai based tour operators and they assured them that they would try their best to send tourists to the Valley.
A Kashmir based private tour operator while talking to Precious Kashmir said, “Tourism Department reaching out to Chennai based tour operators is a welcome step. But the department needs to do a lot more to revive the ailing tourism industry in Kashmir.”
He said, “Our industry has suffered immense losses during the past three years and it will take a lot of time to revive it. We were promised a special package but that remained confined to papers only.”
The tour operator said that they are trying their best to attract more and more tourists to the Valley as they have realized that they cannot wait for the Tourism Department to come for their rescue. “If the COVID-19 relents and situation remains normal, we may at least need three to four good seasons to bring the industry back on track,” he added.
A hotelier said, “Many of us had taken hefty loans and CC limits from the financial institutions. We have been paying the interest without doing any business. The ones who have not been able to maintain their properties have decided to sell them off and many have already sold these to clear the debt.”
He said, “The government needs to devise a comprehensive plan to infuse new life into the tourism sector and help the tourism stakeholders. Many small and big outlets have winded up their businesses as the owners of these establishments couldn’t bear the losses.”
An owner of a prominent restaurant in Srinagar city said that their sales have declined manifolds and they have been compelled to lay-off their staff. “The COVID-19 has to end for life to return to normal. The pandemic has hit the restaurant business hard. The government needs to come for our rescue if it wants us to survive,” he said, adding, “Just reaching out to tour operators in other states is not enough.”