Srinagar – Projection of Kashmir as a violence hit tourist destination allegedly by the tour operators from Indian states is hampering the influx of tourists to the Valley.
“It is really awful, the travel agents from other states are tarnishing Kashmir image by projecting it as violence hit region,” a tourism official who is posted in New Delhi told Rising Kashmir over phone.
“It is really costing Kashmir its tourism industry,” the official said, adding, “The travel agents in Delhi use deceitful methods to attract the tourists. They have to say only few words to change the mind of tourists. ‘Kashmir Marne Javo Gay kya, (If you want to die go to Kashmir).”
These words according to the official succeed in keeping travelers at bay. “We don’t have any concrete policy to counter the malicious propaganda of these travel agents,” the official added.
A travel agent, Fayaz Ahmad Langoo, who recently returned from New Delhi said, “After we finally persuade tourists to visit the Valley, the travel agents from other states appear from nowhere and project Kashmir as terrorist infested region.”
Especially, he said, foreign tourists after hearing the word “terrorism,” change their plans.
“Nobody takes legal action against them (tourist agents) for indulging in false propaganda,” Langoo said. “We personally cannot stop them from doing so. These people are backed by Delhi Police and they (police) always looks for excuses to harass Kashmiris.”
“We prefer to remain quiet rather than stopping them (travel agents),” Langoo said. President of House Boat Owners Association, Muhammad Azim Toman also expressed concern over the issue. “This is a definite problem plaguing tourism industry in Kashmir,” Toman said.
He said that the travel agents taking leverage of ‘conflict’ entice the tourists for minting money.
“We went to Delhi and also staged a protest. But no legal action was taken against these miscreants. We only got assurances,” Toman said.
Expressing other concerns, Toman said the travel agents in India also ‘misuse’ Kashmir name to bring tourists to their states. “They use words like chota Kashmir to entice tourists. This is mainly done by the travel agents from Himachal Pradesh,” he said.
Joint Director Tourism, Sarmad Hafeez acknowledged that there are some ‘fraudulent people’ who are tarnishing the image of Kashmir.
“Certainly there are some people in New Delhi who are tarnishing the Kashmir image but we will not allow them succeed in their nefarious designs,” Hafeez said. “To counter these people (travel agents) department has undertaken a wide publicity campaign. We have opened offices throughout India, besides; we are participating in international and national travel marts. We are doing this to educate masses about these disreputable people. We are also doing so to shun the negative perception regarding Kashmir among tourists,” he said, adding, “We are also planning to take legal course against these miscreants.”
Another official of the tourism department said that the travel agents from other states are “feeling threatened” in wake of the publicity campaign launched by the Jammu and Kashmir Government to attract tourists. “We are expecting a huge influx of tourists this summer,” the official claimed.