With Maharashtra traditionally contributing 40 percent of overall tourist arrivals in Kashmir, the tour operators from this central Indian state have asked JK Government, especially the Tourism Department, to improve infrastructure, introduce tourist friendly policies and ensure reasonable prices for better flow of tourists.
They also demanded measures such as advance booking for sightseeing, more food courts and restaurants and to ensure hygiene and cleanliness of places like houseboats.
In its recommendations recently handed over to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti during her Mumbai visit, Maharashtra Tour Organizers' Association (MTOA) has also suggested that a nodal body be appointed "for film shooting groups for single window permissions".
"This body will be helpful for facilitating film shoots and even provide support to tourists," MTOA suggestions said. According to MTOA tourists visiting in groups should be given priority to board the Gandola. It has also said that sufficient number of restraunts and food courts of JKTDC be introduced while some tour operators who "are in need of kitchen facilities be provided so".
The association has also demanded that tourist coaches who have hotel bookings be allowed inside city hotels." City hotels can issue permits to these coaches. In Europe this practice is very effectively implemented and coaches are allowed to drop and pick up once in a day," the suggestions read. With regard to ferrying tourists to Shankaracharya hill, the MTOA has recommended that a shuttle service be started from the entrance of the hill to entrance of the main temple.
"This will help to avoid traffic jams on the hill and will prove to be comfortable for each tourists," it said.
The MTOA has urged the Tourism Department to ensure uniformity in rates of pony rides at Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Pahalgam etc.
"Instead of short term gains they (ponywallahs) should concentrate on regular income for longer period. We face a lot of problems since there is no fixed policy by local suppliers," it reads.
According to Department of Tourism, more than 40 percent domestic tourists coming to Kashmir are from Maharashtra while as the second highest number of tourists to the Valley arrive from Gujarat.
The Maharashtra-based tour organizers have also highlighted that hotel rates in Kashmir shot up drastically during the peak tourist season. "The destination gets projected as a high cost destination with less service at site. The clients don't get value for money. It is advisable to communicate with all hotels to have reasonable rates," the suggestions read. The operators have also suggested that joint tourism promotion between JK Tourism and Maharashtra based operators be conducted.