Bengalis eager to visit Kashmir after lifted advisory

Kolkata: (PTI) The wanderlust in Bengalis appears to have been reignited, following the much-anticipated lifting of travel restrictions to Jammu and Kashmir, as people
thronged its tourism office here with queries on making a trip to the ‘paradise on earth’.
Having missed out on the opportunity to visit the state during the Durga Puja holidays, travellers from West Bengal are now eager to pack their
bags and visit the Valley, officials said.
There is great interest and curiosity over visiting J&K among travellers from West Bengal, who account for the second highest number of domestic
tourists to the state after Gujarat, said Ahsan-ul-Haq, the officer in-charge of the Jammu
and Kashmir Tourist Office here.
“Even during the restrictions, we were getting lot of queries from interested travellers in Bengal,” Haq told PTI.
He said that the J&K administration’s decision to restore postpaid mobile phone services from Monday will go a long way in getting Kashmir “firmly
back” on the tourism map of the country.
The officer admitted that the lack of mobile connectivity was impacting the tourism industry in that state, since visitors who had made bookings
earlier could not get in touch with the travel operators and hotels.
In a major step towards easing the 69-day lockdown in the Kashmir Valley, authorities on Saturday announced that postpaid mobile phones will become
from Monday noon.
Jammu and Kashmir was opened to tourists from October 10.
The state administration on August 2 had issued a security advisory asking tourists to leave Kashmir as soon as possible, citing threats in the
The advisory was issued just before the GoI announced the negation of the Article 370 of the constitution and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into
two Union Territories on August 5.
Anil Panjabi, Chairman (East), Travel Agents’ Confederation of India, said that tour operators in Kolkata and other places in West Bengal are now
flooded with queries about travel to the Kashmir Valley.
“We are hoping that a large number of tourists from West Bengal will travel to Kashmir now that the restrictions have been withdrawn,” Panjabi
He said that during the 2018 Durga Puja holidays, around 3,500 tourists from West Bengal visited Jammu and Kashmir, but none could make the trip
this year during the festival season, owing to the restrictions.
Panjabi added that over 6,000 people travelled to the picturesque Valley in 2018 from the eastern state, and the number is likely to increase
three-fold in 2020.
The official said that he plans to take a delegation of tour operators from West Bengal to J&K in November to explore tie-ups with agents and
hotels, and would also invite them to visit Kolkata for similar purpose.
Haq said the queries from potential travellers mainly revolve around the security situation and connectivity in the Kashmir Valley.
“As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), J&K is the safest compared to other states and the crime rate is negligible,” Haq claimed.
The state is also safe for solo women travellers and other female tourists, including hikers, he said.
“A few months back, a woman research scholar of history from Calcutta University visited Awantipora alone to explore the ruins of ancient temples
there, and we helped her with all necessary information,” Haq said. PTI

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