‘What is Tourism Development Board?’ Trade body shoots letter to Chief Minister’s Office

At a time when Kashmir is reeling under uncertainty, J&K Government’s call for a meet of Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) did not have many takers

Srinagar: On Monday, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, chaired a meeting of TAB which saw the attendance of top businessmen from J&K. However, a few stayed away questioning the formation and jurisdiction of TAB.

Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCC&I) – the oldest body of trade in Kashmir – has shot a letter to Chief Minister’s Office about the formation of TB and its powers.

“We did not attend the meet,” said KCC&I Secretary General, Faiz Bakshi. “The KCC&I has written a letter in which we have sought ‘supply terms of reference of forming board’ (TAB) from the chief minister’s office (CMO).”

Raising the concern, the trade bodies maintain that most of the members of such advisory boards are “outsiders” and are not from J&K. “We have asked the office to provide us details about the powers of the board, and details about its constitution,” Faiz said.

Interestingly, in the TAB meet, it was decided that “sensitive tourism areas” would be given “more security cover for smooth tourism business”.

“But holding such a meet to discuss tourism in Kashmir in prevailing situation is a futile exercise,” a businessmen said.

Chairman Houseboat Owners Association Kashmir, G R Siah, who is also the member of TAB told the FreePressKashmir that he asked the government that people associated with Houseboat tourism want government to come up with a comprehensive policy where allocation of timber and renovation of houseboats would be allowed.

The tourism players also raised concern over Anchar lake which has seen degradation over the years. “Department of tourism had allotted rupees 9 lakh for its revival but it didn’t help.”

Further, Siah said, “Wullar Lake is getting dry due to continuous anthropogenic approach while Dal Lake, which supports houseboats in four water bodies, is degrading at a very high pace.”

The meeting impressed upon the government to find ways to counter negative media coverage of Kashmir. “This has badly affected this industry,” he added.

Chairman, Hoteliers Club Kashmir, Mushtaq Chaya, who is also the member of TAB related sudden fall of tourist arrival to negative publicity of Kashmir.

“I demanded from the government that proper feedback be given to electronic media,” he told the FreePressKashmir.

“Whoever comes here admires, and wants to return to Kashmir for its beauty and our hospitality, but electronic media is hell bent to make this industry face losses,” he observed.

Chaya further demanded that Kashmir hoteliers get benefit by way of reducing electricity and water charges.

Hopeful of a good tourist season ahead, Domestic Tour Operators Association Kashmir chief, Abdul Hamid Wangnoo, alleged, “it is the state and union government’s policy that they don’t want to promotion of tourism in J&K.”

Domestic Tour Operators Association Kashmir is not member of the TAB.

KCC&I office bearers informed that tourism in Kashmir is in “total decline”. “Current tourist arrival report is below 10%,” Faiz Bakhshi said.

Wangnoo supported Chaya saying that Indian electronic media is portraying “false” image of Kashmir that results in fall of tourism flow.

Wangnoo demanded that government should compensate such travel traders which solely depend on tourism business and are hit by the uncertain conditions of Kashmir.

When asked the current status of hotel occupancy in Kashmir, the Hoteliers Club Kashmir chief said, “our hotels were doing satisfactory business but prevailing situation has left negative impact on tourists. The tourists present in Kashmir want to leave as soon as possible. Currently, it’s below 20% occupancy in hotels.”

“Given the low tourism flow in the valley, the hospitality sector is genuine if they seek reduction in commercial bill charges including that of electricity and water,” he added.

Ibrahim Siah, who represented Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) in TAB, said that issues like overcharging at tourist places, harassment and unnecessarily security check points  on the highways and at Srinagar airport cause disgust among tourists.

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