The Biz Reporter
Srinagar, Sep 20: In a time when the government of Jammu and Kashmir is making concerted efforts to rekindle foreign tourism in the region, several countries continue to uphold their travel advisories against Kashmir. These advisories, although contrary to the recent surge in tourism, remain a significant concern for the tourism industry and government alike.
According to the Kashmir News Observer (KNO), earlier this month, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) of the British government issued a fresh travel advisory, warning British nationals against travelling to Kashmir. The advisory covered the entire region of Jammu and Kashmir, including popular tourist destinations such as Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Sonmarg, the city of Srinagar, and the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway. The only exception allowed was for air travel to and from the city of Jammu and travel within the region of Ladakh.
Similarly, in August, Australia updated its advisory, maintaining its travel warning against Jammu and Kashmir. In May, France also issued a renewed advisory, cautioning against travel to all districts of the Kashmir Valley, as well as the Kargil district.
The United States of America, which has been issuing travel advisories against Kashmir for many years, has not yet considered lifting its advisory despite the recent surge in foreign tourists to the region.
These advisories have surfaced at a time when Kashmir has witnessed a record-breaking influx of foreign tourists from various parts of the world. As of August 31 this year, 30,647 foreign tourists have visited the valley, marking a significant increase of over 35 percent compared to the previous year.
It’s noteworthy that earlier this year, the government of Jammu and Kashmir hosted a G20 summit in Srinagar, during which government officials and tourism stakeholders advocated for the removal of travel advisories by European countries. Tourism industry players argue that the removal of these advisories could further boost foreign tourism in the region.
“Before the 1990s, foreigners constituted a substantial portion of our total arrivals. Undoubtedly, these advisories are impacting our foreign tourism numbers. While we have seen a surge in foreign tourists, the government should continue its efforts to have these advisories removed,” stated Farooq Ahmad Kuthoo, President of the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir.
Kuthoo further emphasized that despite the travel advisories, some adventurous travellers continue to visit the valley, contributing positively to the reputation of Kashmir as a tourist destination in foreign countries.
“The G20 summit was a significant step, and it has already shown its benefits with increased foreign tourist arrivals this year. We remain optimistic that foreign tourists will rediscover Kashmir as their preferred destination, given its stunning landscapes and adventurous opportunities,” Kuthoo added.
Last month, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha announced that the administration is actively engaged in discussions with the United States and several European nations in an effort to persuade them to lift travel advisories for Kashmir, recognizing the potential for a further tourism boost in the region.