With hundreds of tourists spread across the Valley, the state Tourism department is sending buses to different destinations to bring them back, in order to send them home, following the J&K administration’s security advisory on Friday.
Stating that 15,000 to 20,000 tourists were in the Valley as on Friday, Director, Tourism (Kashmir), Nisar Wani told The Indian Express, “We have informed all officials at tourist destinations to clear tourists in their areas. We have sent state buses to these destinations so that tourists can be brought back.”
At Pahalgam, assistant director of tourism, Pahalgam, Zahida Parveen said, “There were around 1,000 tourists here. Most of have them have left now. We are asking them to leave for Jammu instead of going to Srinagar.”
At Gulmarg, a senior official said, “Tourists are shocked, panicked by the order, but they are cooperating. They started leaving as soon the news spread here.”
Travel operators in Kashmir said they were flooded with panic calls. “I am receiving calls from customers who want to know about the situation,” said Irfan Pala, who runs a tour agency in Srinagar. “Tourists groups, who were at different places, are on way to Srinagar after they were asked to leave in Gulmarg and Pahalgam.”
Rouf Tramboo, president of Adventure Tour Operators Association of Kashmir, said, “It is a big blow to tourism in Kashmir, which is on ventilator. After the advisory, every tourist is in panic and confused.”
Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Sheikh Aashiq said, “There is complete chaos. How can anyone do business in such a situation when tourists are asked to leave immediately?”
In Delhi, many agents and tour operators said tourists who have gone to Kashmir, or are booked to leave in near future, are either returning or are considering cancelling their upcoming trips.
Delhi-based travel agent Ghulam Hasan Mubaraki said his four clients reached Sonamarg, 15 km from Amarnath pilgrim camping site, on Thursday and will now leave on Thursday. “This has never happened in 14 years that I have had clients for the Amarnath Yatra,” he said.
Anil Rajput, joint secretary of the Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India, said the security advisory was doing the rounds on WhatsApp. “Hoteliers in J&K take very good care of tourists; they are safe and have nothing to worry about. But since the government has issued a directive, we will abide by it.”
Another tour operator, Sandeep Mehta, who founded Global Indian Adventure eight years ago, said, “I had some clients due to leave for the Amarnath Yatra in the coming days, since it was (earlier) on till August 15. Today, they called to say they won’t go. In the past, there have been two-day suspensions due to bad weather but tourists have never been asked to return.”