Negative publicity hurting tourism in Kashmir: Travel Industry

Travel agents from several parts of the country and abroad feel that the situation in Kashmir was not being portrayed “correctly” and that negative publicity was hurting the tourism sector in the valley.
A group of travel agents from several cities of the country and Thailand, on a familiarisation tour of Kashmir, visited prominent destinations such Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg.
“Before sending tourists to Kashmir, we wanted to visit ourselves and we found everything is good. I appreciate how people are so nice and friendly with the tourists. Tourists are totally enjoying their holidays here,” Thailand-based Nattinee Shrestha of Himalayan Holidays said.
“Many new hotels have come up and we are happy about that. Kashmir is a unique place and people from many countries seek travel packages for this place…above all, this place is safer than any other tourist destinations. Female tourists can roam freely without any threat,” she said.
Another travel agent from Thailand, who goes by single name Best, said Kashmir for her was one of the best places to visit.
The Department of Tourism, Kashmir, organised a roadshow in August this year in Thailand to convince travel agents to visit Kashmir on familiarisation tour.
Satish Shah, Managing Director of Pooja Tours and Travels in Mumbai, has been sending tourists to Kashmir for last 20 years.
However, he is disappointed at low tourist influx to Kashmir which, he says, is just because of wrong notion among the travellers.
“We are trying to convince travellers to visit Kashmir. If someone has visited this place 40 years ago for honeymoon, their children also want to visit here. Kashmir has natural attraction but only media is playing spoilsport,” Satish said.
Director of Tourism Mahmood A Shah said these tours were part of promotional campaigns of the department which would help attract travellers and build positive opinion among travel agents who bring tourists.
He said the department was expecting tourist arrivals to pick up in ongoing autumn and upcoming winter months.
“Tourist arrivals have already started picking up. Our aggressive marketing campaign is bearing fruit. We have been very aggressive on social media which has helped dilute the negative perception,” he said.

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