TOURIST INFLOW CAN’T ECLIPSE KASHMIR ISSUE: OMAR ABDULLAH

Pakistan Hampering Operation Of International Flights From Srinagar Airport

ABID BASHIR

Srinagar, Nov 20: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Tuesday cautioned against drawing any political connotations from the huge tourist influx in Kashmir, as, according to him, tourism was just an economic activity.
Omar blamed Pakistan for not allowing operations of international flights from Srinagar airport.
Addressing a seminar on “Sustainable Tourism — Environment and Infrastructure” at SKICC on the banks of famous Dal Lake here, Omar said huge tourist flow can be a part of economic activity but it can’t overshadow Kashmir issue.
“Bumper tourism season doesn’t mean that there is no main issue (Kashmir issue),” he said. “Huge tourist influx can contribute to economy of the State in a great way, but it can’t overshadow the basic issue. Tourists are flooding the valley under a reduced threat. Withdrawal of travel advisories by United Kingdom and Germany has played a great role.”
He also said that despite arrival of around 13 lakh tourists this year, the long-term focus should not be on numbers but on the quality as Kashmir was going pre-90s way on the tourism front as even he himself has started getting calls for booking of hotels.
“Even Chief Minister has started getting calls for booking. I have got calls for bookings from my friends on phone as they were refused room by a five star hotel in Srinagar,” Omar said.
The Chief Minister asked the tourism fraternity not to wait for arrival of 20 or 25 lakh tourists, but focus on “quality tourism.”  “Here, I have a different opinion. I don’t want 25 lakh tourists to flood Kashmir. What I want is quality services for the tourists,” he said. “I don’t want tourists to come here once and leave no room for another visit. We should focus on quality services rather than numbers.”
The Chief Minister blamed Pakistan for not allowing international flights from the Srinagar International Airport. “It is very unfortunate that a country that claims to be sympathizers of Kashmiris have objected to international flights from Srinagar airport. But we will take up the issue with the Government of India so that at least flights from the East side are made operational,” he said.
Omar said it was for the first time when he realized that a common man has earned from the tourism in Kashmir. “Many people host tourists in their homes. Many homes were turned into temporary guest houses. Even areas known for the infiltration witnessed tourist rush and people gave rooms on rent for Rs 2000,” he said.
The Chief Minster said government can’t set up hotels across Kashmir. “New hotels are coming up in Gulmarg. We can’t witness hotel boom in Kashmir,” he said. “We have to stop unplanned construction of hotels otherwise hotels will come up everywhere. Private tour operators have to contribute in infrastructure building as well.”
He said tourism in Kashmir was different from other States of India. “We don’t have Taj Mahal or Lal Qila to showcase. What we have is the natural beauty and some religious places.  And we will have to rely on the same,” he said. “We have to sustain on this and change our mindset as well.” He praised the tour operators including Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association and Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Federation for jointly organizing the seminar. “The credit for best tourism season goes to tour operators, hoteliers and all those associated with the field,” Omar said.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 20 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 20 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 21 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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