UK, Germany advisory asks citizens not to visit state
Thousands of tourists and Amarnath pilgrims Saturday left Kashmir after government issued an advisory asking them to move out from the Valley.
Authorities Friday issued an advisory asking yatris and tourists to curtail their stay in view of the latest intelligence inputs of militant threats to Amarnathyatra. Officials said that yatris from all base camps including Pahalgam started leaving on Saturday morning, while some pilgrims at YatriNiwas base camp in Jammu also left the place without paying obeisance at Amarnath cave.
"Tourists have started leaving and some were also being evacuated in the SRTC buses from Pahalgam, Sonmarg and Gulmarg," said an official.
The 46-day long AmarnathYatra started on June 29 from Jammu and was scheduled to conclude on August 15. But the yatra was suspended earlier.
Pilgrims at YatriNiwas said that they felt bad to return their homes without paying obeisance at the holy cave.
“Everything was going fine, but all of a sudden we were asked to leave the Valley. It created panic and confusion among the pilgrims. We heard government has asked us to leave due to some threats, " said a pilgrim, Anand Sharma.
Another tourist from Mumbai said that it “is very disappointing that we had to leave Kashmir without exploring the beautiful place.”
" We had spent a good deal of money on this trip. My children are unhappy," said Vishal Malhotra. Besides local tourists and yatris, foreign tourists have also started leaving Kashmir.
" Militarypersonne near Dal lake asked us to leave. Then we approached the tourism information centre where we got the information about some order issued by the government. We will go to Jammu but we will again visit Kashmir soon to explore the natural beauty, “said a foreigner from Germany.
The ongoing situation has severely affected the tourist inflow to Kashmir, with tourism players claiming huge losses due to 100 percent cancellation.
General Secretary, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), FarooqKuthoo, told Rising Kashmir that 100 percent bookings of tourists have been cancelled in the valley.
He said that they have suffered huge losses as over 26 lakh people are associated with the industry.
" This is for the first time in Kashmir that tourists were asked to leave. It has created a panic and fear among the tourists who had booked tickets to visit the Valley. It has an impact all over the world. Headlines regarding tourists asked to leave the Valley have dominated the newspapers all over the world," he said.
Kuthoo said that he has received calls from different countries and tourists enquiring about the situation and cancelling their visit to the Valley.
" All bookings stand cancelled due to the advisory issued by the government. We were expecting a good arrival. Tourists from different countries including Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Bangkok, Thailand and other places cancelled their bookings," he said.
He blamed government for neglecting the “stakeholders” associated with tourism industry." The government should think about all the stakeholders in tourism business. They should compensate the losses of people associated with the tourism industry."
"We do not see any hope now. Even if the situation will improve, still our losses would not be compensated. This year, there will be no tourist bookings," he said.
Meanwhile, Director, Tourism Kashmir, NisarWani, told Rising Kashmir that around 95 percent tourists have left the Valley on Saturday and the remaining 5 percent will leave tomorrow (Sunday) by 12 pm.
He said that on the directions of government the department had asked all domestic as well as foreign tourists to leave Kashmir.
“Obviously, 100 percent tourists will leave. There would not be any tourist visible in the Valley now. It is a government order," he said.
“Some foreign tourists are still in Kashmir. Some had gone for trekking in Pahalgam but once they will return they will go back to their destinations," he said. Wani said that over 22,000 tourists were in Kashmir on Friday.
Meanwhile, United Kingdom has issued a travel advisory for its citizens against travelling to Jammu and Kashmir, following the government's security advisory in the state.“There is a risk of unpredictable violence, including bombings, grenade attacks, shootings and kidnapping” says fresh advisory by UK to its citizens.
Similar advisory was issued by Germany for its nationals. "Urgently discouraging travelling to Jammu & Kashmir following a security alert by GoI. Those who are currently in Kashmir are encouraged to leave the state", says the advisory.