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    Government lifts travel advisory on Kashmir

    Synopsis

    But hoteliers, travel portals expect no revival till communication blockade ends.

    PTI
    Revival of tourism is expected to pick pace only when communications blockade is lifted.
    NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir has lifted a travel advisory requesting tourists and pilgrims to stay away from the region, but given the continuing communication blockade hoteliers and online travel agents don’t expect an enthusiastic response from travellers.

    In an order dated October 9, the state home department announced the withdrawal of the security advisory issued on August 2, a few days before the government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and announced bifurcation of the state into two union territories. “The tourists desirous of undertaking a visit to the state shall be provided all the necessary assistance and logistical support,” the order said.

    Hoteliers and travel agents, however, said revival of communication is very important for the revival of tourism.

    “It is a positive sign and we hope people start coming back,” said Asif Iqbal Burza, managing director at Ahad Hotels and Resorts, which has a tieup with ITC Hotels for its Fortune Resort Heevan hotel in Srinagar and WelcomHotel Pine N Peak property in Pahalgam. “But tourists need to communicate. They need to be in touch… Very few phones are functional here, and there are limited places for internet access.”

    Mid-market chain Lemon Tree Hotels, which had shut its Srinagar hotel following the travel advisory, said it is not opening the hotel for bookings immediately, and would rather wait and watch for a fortnight.

    “From a guest perspective, I don’t think people will get enthused about it immediately,” said Rattan Keswani, deputy managing director at Lemon Tree Hotels. The group’s hotels in Katra and Jammu are doing business despite a slump.

    “The problem for us, like everybody else, seems to be the valley,” Keswani said. “We are not seeing any major activity of requests or calls from anybody, and apprehensions will still be there for a while. We moved away all team members from the Srinagar hotel about two and a half weeks ago and most hotels and houseboats are shut for business. When you open a hotel, you start incurring costs, and if there is no business for the next one month it will be incorrect to suggest it to owners.”

    Yatra.com said it has not seen too many enquiries. “But these are early days,” said Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer for B2C at Yatra.com. “We are hopeful that as things progress and if there is relative calm, tourists will start looking at making bookings again. Right now, some five-star and three-star hotels are accepting bookings on our portal. We are not sure about the smaller properties.”

    Cleartrip said in its partner network, houseboat and hotel suppliers have just about started to open bookings for their properties. “However, we need to understand that there are many different players in the travel ecosystem that need to respond to the movement,” said Ankit Rastogi, head, accommodation and activities, at Cleartrip. “With the upcoming winter leisure travel season about to kick off, largely owing to snowfall in the valley, we believe that this move will encourage more travel partners / tour and activity operators joining in and accepting bookings in the region.”

    Aloke Bajpai, cofounder of ixigo.com, said the security situation in Jammu & Kashmir over the past two months has already led to a 50% drop in search enquiries for the year. “Until communication is restored, revival of tourism in Kashmir will be a long and slow process,” he said.
    (Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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