Warmth of local hospitality overwhelms South Indian tour operators

Srinagar:  To tap the South Indian market, the department of tourism Kashmir organized a FAM tour for the travel agents from Chennai and Bangalore who visited   Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Yusmarg and Srinagar city.

The travel agents were all in praise for the hospitality they experienced during their travel here. They were also mesmerized by the beautiful landscape, unique culture, distinct art and craft of the Kashmir Valley.

The travel agents also visited budget, high-end properties and the Valley’s main USP, houseboats.

Ravi, who runs one of the leading tour companies – Arjun Tour and Travels – in Bangalore, said he would send more groups to Kashmir after realizing the tourist-friendly attitude of the locals.

“I have been sending group to Kashmir for over a decade but never visited here. Due to the FAM tour, I got an opportunity to visit this place. Trust me, from the day I landed here, it has been a wonderful experience. I had never imagined Kashmir is so beautiful and people are welcoming tourists with open hearts,” said Ravi who arrived in Srinagar on December 8, 2017.

Ravi, who also heads Karnataka Tourism Forum, said Kashmir can be an excellent choice for corporate tourism.

“I visited Gulmarg and hotel accommodations like Khyber. I think big corporate houses can be roped in for conferences in Kashmir. They will not only have best conferences here but also memorable journey in this beautiful land,” said Ravi who is mostly doing corporate tourism.

Another travel agent Shriharan Balan, Director of Madura Travel Services (P) Ltd in Chennai, minced no bones to shower praise on Kashmir’s hospitality, conferencing facilities and beautiful landscape.

Balan has also been selling Kashmir packages to his clients for 30 years. He, however, had grown apprehensive of late about sending them to Kashmir due to negative media publicity.

After his visit to Kashmir, Balan plans to send more groups to Valley and also extend their stays here.

“I think only in Pahalgam, I can sell the package to my clients for three days. This visit proved fruitful. We had been selling very similar all these years but now we came to know many things like newly developed Pahalgam Club, Pahalgam Golf Course and other products which we can sell now. There are so many other destinations which have not been sold so far. Back home, I will defiantly try to sell more days for my clients when they plan their vacations to Kashmir,” he said.

His apprehensions of safety also proved wrong when met and interacted with locals here.

“I came here with lot of apprehensions but after completing my tour I realized only media is spoiling Kashmir’s image. More than safety, it is the love people here have for tourists.  I visited a shop to buy saffron. The shopkeeper was not only courteous but also offered Kehwa and insisted on having lunch. We will never see such warm people from any other place,” says Balan.

Balan plans to send more tourists here than he was sending earlier.

“If we have such a warm people here, why should we send our clients to places or other countries? Kashmir is a perfect holiday destination.”

Director Tourism Kashmir Mahmood A Shah also interacted with the tour operators and assured them that the department would visit Bangalore and Chennai for more confidence building measures.

He said negative media publicity has affected tourist flow to Kashmir which needs to be countered by FAM tours.

“We are organizing FAM tours for the leading travel agents who sell large number of groups to Kashmir. We show them around and they interact with the people. They get to know Kashmir and that people here are eagerly waiting to host them and provide them best services,” said Director Tourism Kashmir. “Local travel agents also interact with these visiting tour operators and get business opportunities.”

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