‘IAF order will hit tourist arrivals to Kashmir’

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Tourism players in Kashmir have expressed anguish over the decision of Indian Air Force curtailing flight time schedules to 4.30 PM at Srinagar International Airport. 
President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Sheikh Ashiq said it is unfortunate that Indian Air force has in the middle of season decided to renovate runway and curtailed the flight time schedules. 
“KCCI despite being member of the Airport Advisory committee was not informed about the decision,” Ashiq complained.
He suggested that a workable solution to the problem needed to be found out so that the Kashmir tourism industry is saved from the losses that it could suffer because of the curtailment in the flight time schedules. 
He also demanded that the embargo put on cargo the services should be removed.  
“Our exporters are worried, the authorities have to come out with a solution otherwise our trade and commerce will suffer,” he said. 
President, KCCI, reiterated chamber’s demand for civil airport. “Had there been a civil airport we won’t have to face a situation like this,” he said.
He said: “Since the Srinagar International Airport is a Defence Airport, the Defence ministry is least bothered about the tourism industry,” he said. 
The tourism players said the move of IAF will led to the cancellation of large number of bookings in the coming days.
President Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Peerzada Fayaz said: “Major chunk of the tourists plan their vacations in advance and they book their tickets as per their schedule. They are not ready to reschedule their tickets. It will disturb their entire trip. We are receiving number of queries from our customers, who now are skeptical about their visit to valley after the announcement.” 
TAAK demanded that either IAF should start the renovation work after August or allow the flight operations at least till 6 PM daily instead of 4:30 PM. “They could in the alternative think about diverting the flights coming after 4:30 PM to Awantipora airbase.”
 “We are not against the renovation. If there is any problem it should be amended for the safety of all passengers, but there should be a backup plan. Making a sudden announcement in the middle of the tourist season is inappropriate,” said Peerzada.
TAAK President said that authorities should have made the announcement before the start of the tourist season instead issuing notice at the eleventh hour.
“If we would have been informed before the start of the season, travel agents would have sold their packages accordingly. Now, when we have already booked the tickets and have finalized the packages for tourists, how can we change it in the eleventh hour,” said Peerzada.
Assistant Manager, Travel Master, a Srinagar-based travel agency said: “The announcement by the IAF has huge potential to disturb the arrival plans of the tourists. When you are making such an announcement in the middle of the season, naturally it is going to have its effect on the arrivals.”
Indian Air force (IAF) has decided to renovate the runway and have ordered Airports Authority of India (AAI) to restrict the flight timing schedule to 4.30 PM.

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