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Travellers show little interest in Kashmir

Business to Kashmir is very slow, both for Indian and foreign travellers. Comparing it to last year's records which was not good either, this season witnessed a dip of 50%. Although hotels are operational, there have been hardly any bookings. Internet blockade continues to be a huge detterent, putting off the visitors.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Dec 11, 2019, 12.05 PM IST
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NEW DELHI: Two months after the travel advisory for Kashmir was lifted in October, data gathered from online travel operators shows flights and hotel bookings and search queries for the Valley have halved this winter compared with the same time last year, with travellers showing little interest for the destination.

Branded hotel chains in the Valley have been bleeding since they resumed operations as the internet blockade continues to be a huge detterent, putting off visitors.

“Business to Kashmir is very slow, both for Indian and foreign travellers. Even if you compare it with last year, which wasn’t a good one, we are seeing a dip of about 50%. We have been actively advertising Kashmir, but we have hardly seen any queries coming in. 60-70% of the hotels in Srinagar are operational, but there are very few bookings,” said Kapil Goswamy, MD, Bigbreaks.com.

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

Aloke Bajpai, CEO and co-founder of ixigo, said search enquiries for Kashmir have decreased by more than half for the year. ixigo is seeing a 14% decrease in flight and hotel bookings for the October-December 2019 period against the same period last year. It received 78,894 bookings for Kashmir so far compared with 161,929 bookings last year.

“The Valley also missed out on the festive traffic due to cancellation of advance bookings. Until communication is restored, revival of tourism in Kashmir will be a long and slow process,” said Bajpai.

Post-paid mobile services were restored in Kashmir but messaging platforms like WhatsApp are not functional as the internet blockade continues.

Vipul Prakash, COO at MakeMyTrip, said while Leh and Ladakh witnessed sustained growth in hotel room nights between September and November, hotel bookings in Srinagar, Gulmarg and Pahalgam - the most sought-after destinations by Indian and international travellers -- have plunged.

Operators said while a substantial portion of hotels in Srinagar are currently operational, chains are taking a massive hit as bookings are few and far between. During the travel blockade, some hotels had shut operations and had transferred their staff.

“Hotels are bleeding. Most of the staff from Srinagar’s branded hotels had been transferred to cut down on costs. Locations like Pahalgam, Gulmarg are ghost towns,” said a person familiar with the developments.

“The situation is bad. Telephone connectivity is there now. You can get through on post-paid mobile phones, but, wifi and internet is an issue. We are not getting any bookings,” said an executive of a branded chain.

Rattan Keswani, deputy managing director at Lemon Tree Hotels, said his chain has revived the Srinagar operations and has started taking bookings from the last weekend. “To help the owner, we had diverted staff members to other locations so that pay roll expenses could be taken off his head. They are starting to join back now,” he said.

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