Srinagar, May 16: Tourism stakeholders in the Valley are hopeful that the upcoming G20 working group meeting in Srinagar will pave the way for lifting of Jammu and Kashmir-specific travel advisories by the European Union countries and the US, which can give a massive boost to the tourism sector.
A significant number of foreign tourists — even from the countries which have negative travel advisories in place — are visiting Kashmir and they feel the place is absolutely safe.
“As a tourism stakeholder, I welcome the G20 event. There are advisories in place from various countries across the globe, which unfortunately have been in place since the 1990s. There has been a great transformation as far as the overall situation in Kashmir is concerned. It’s very peaceful now and there have been certain instances where European countries have been discussing lifting these travel advisories,” Syed Abid Rashid, Tourism Secretary to Jammu and Kashmir government, said.
He said representatives of the countries, which have issued the negative travel advisories, will be in the Valley for the G20 meet.
“I am sure these things will be discussed and keeping in consideration the present political scenario and the peaceful environment of Kashmir, I am hopeful they will consider lifting these advisories. The footfall of tourists from various countries is going to contribute to the overall tourism industry in Jammu and Kashmir,” Rashid added.
Manzoor Ahmad Wangnoo, who has been associated with the tourism trade for several decades, said it was the best time to revoke the advisories.
“I think this is the best time to revoke those advisories. You see, for the last two years, all the hotels, houseboats are full. The credit goes to the department of tourism. Earlier, you know, we had COVID and business was almost zero. Now we have tourists calling us for reservations, they want to know if they will get hotel rooms or not. That is wonderful news,” Wangnoo said.
On the arrival of international tourists, he said, “It was not that good in the last two years but it has started moving upwards. You see the shikarawallahs and the ponywallahs and those associated with tourist trade. They are doing wonderful business. This message goes across the country and abroad. It will take some time, we are showing them the best hospitality of Kashmir.” “Kashmir is safe for tourists, especially international tourists,” he added.
Foreign tourists say they feel safe in the valley and are amazed by the hospitality of the people.
“I am in Srinagar for three days and I am feeling very safe and fine… I walked the whole city and I don’t feel unsafe,” Labeouf, a German national, said.
He said he was aware of the advisories from the German government but travelled anyway to Kashmir. “I don’t feel unsafe, no problem at all, it’s absolutely the right time to revoke that (advisory).” Daria, a youth delegate from Russia who was here for the recent Y20 event, said she had her reservations and worries about coming to Kashmir.
“To be honest, I was scared. I had some concerns but after coming here, all my doubts faded away. It is safe and I don’t have those worries anymore. Based on my experience, they are not justified (negative travel advisories). I feel absolutely safe and secure here,” she said.
Fleu, a traveller from France, said he was not aware of the situation in Kashmir but liked the place very much.
“I just arrived yesterday. So I don’t have a complete picture but it is indeed a beautiful place, the mountains are beautiful and the lake also. People seem very nice,” he said.
The three-day third G20 tourism working group meeting would be held here from May 22-24. Foreign delegates, participating in the meeting, will also visit famous ski resort Gulmarg in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. (AGENCIES)