Srinagar, May 26: Kashmir Tourism Trade Bodies Joint Forum Tuesday demanded a comprehensive bailout and revival package for registered tour operators in Jammu and Kashmir. The forum demanded waiver of interest on loans and GST exemption of travel and tourism servicesÂ for the next two years to tide over the losses.Â
Various travel associations, local, national and international bodies with offices in Srinagar, under the banner of Joint Forum expressed regret over being ignored by the present administration.Â
While addressing the media here at Press Club, Convener of the Forum Nasir Shah said Kashmir tourism came to a grinding halt due to travel advisory issued by the State Home Department in August 2019.Â
He said due to the advisory all tourism activities in the valley were closed dealing a severe blow to the sector which did not recover and the pandemic dealt another blow.Â Â
He said tourism is the first casualty of any sort of law and order problem in the valley.Â
â€œThe travel advisory issued in August 2019 had put entire tourism and trade to a great loss of revenue besides continuous losses being faced by entire trade on account of staff salaries, wages, rent, electricity bill and other day to day miscellaneous expenses,â€ he said and added, â€œThough Government removed the advisory but tourism trade was the last sector to recover.â€
â€œWe may have restarted the tourism activities from April 2020 onwards but global pandemic Covid-19 created havoc on our already crippled industry till November 2020. However some improvements in tourism activity had started from December 2020 till March 2021 but unfortunately the second strain of Covid pandemic again disrupted our livelihood and now its recovery seems impossible this yearâ€.
Speaking on the occasion, Farooq Kuthoo, said Kashmir tourism suffered multiple strokes for many years.
â€œWe have roughly estimated a total loss of around Rs 1350 Cr till November 2020."
He welcomed the recent relief of around Rs 3-crore to weaker sections of the society including shikara walla, pony wallas etc.
"HoweverÂ the amount is too meagre for them to survive till the revival of next tourism season in the valley."
Kuthoo added that legitimate tour operators numbering around 700-800 are front runners in promoting destinations, and have been ignored and left at the mercy of God.
Kashmir Tourism Trade Bodies Joint Forum (KTTBJF) said LG administration should immediately announceÂ a comprehensive bailout package for all tour operators.
â€œBe it leisure, adventure or pilgrimage operators, we demand comprehensive relief package in shape of interest waiver for various loans raised by tour operators in different segments like purchase of tourist taxis, adventure tourism equipments, trekking and camping equipments, office automation, technology tools, power back ups, staff trainings, term loans and soft loans to be sanctioned with subsidised rate of interest for next five-yearsâ€, it said.
Kashmir Tourism Trade Bodies Joint Forum (KTTBJF) also demanded GST waiver for all tourism products for next two-years.
Notably the body comprises the representation from Travel Agents Society of Kashmir, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir, J&K Tourism Alliance, J&K Pilgrim & Leisure Tour Operators Forum, Tourist Trade Interest Guild, Domestic Tour Operators Association of Kashmir, Adventure Tour Operators Association of Kashmir, Urban Travel Agents Association, Travel Agents Association of India (J&K Chapter), Indian Association of Tour Operators (J&K Chapter), Association of Domestic Tour Operators in India, Travel Agents Federation of Kashmir and SKAL Club International Srinagar.