Kashmir hoteliers slam order to host Khelo India participants after cancelling Gulmarg bookings

Express News Service
SRINAGAR: Tour and travel operators in Kashmir have hit out at the government for ordering cancellation of bookings in the world famous ski resort of Gulmarg to accommodate participants and officials of the Khelo India National Winter Games.

Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) president Farooq Ahmad Kuthoo said the order to cancel pre-booking in Gulmarg hotels is “insanity” on the part of the government.

The government is hosting the week long Khelo India national winter games at Gulmarg from February 25 and asked hoteliers in Gulmarg to cancel bookings from Feb 25-March 3.

The Additional Deputy Commissioner Baramulla in a letter to SDM Gulmarg has asked him to ensure that boarding and lodging facilities are provided to the athletes and officials during the Feb 25-March event.

“Further, all pre-bookings, if any, on this account may be cancelled,” the letter read.

TAAK president said the tour operators had made the bookings in the Gulmarg hotels a few months back. “And now how are we going to convince the tourists that they cannot stay in Gulmarg hotels despite the fact that Gulmarg is in the limelight and everybody wants to visit the place.”

Farooq said he is still unable to understand the government move. “They are all of a sudden telling us to cancel all the bookings for the Khelo India event.”

He said it is definitely going to have a serious impact on the efforts in promoting tourism in Kashmir. “It will send a very bad message,” he said.

“On the one hand, they say Khelo India will promote Kashmir tourism but on the other hand, we have to cancel hundreds of bookings and what will people think of us,” he added.

TAAI Kashmir chapter president Zahoor Ahmad Qari said the tour operators are facing a tough time due to pre-booking cancellations at Gulmarg.

If the government had to host the event, he said, they should have given prior information to the hoteliers and told them not to book rooms on specific dates. “This event was not finalized in a day. It is good that Khelo India winter games are being held here but the government should have informed the tourism stakeholders so that the tour operators could not have taken bookings on the specific date. Then we would not have been in the awkward situation which we are at present,” he said.

Qari said the tour operators are in despair and don’t know how they are going to face people outside during the road shows and travel marts.