‘J&K Blast Aimed To Destroy Tourism’

21 July 2008

Srinagar: Fear has gripped tourist operators a day after militants triggered a grenade explosion at Gulmarg, a famed hill resort, killing two including a visitor and local ponywalla and injuring four. And the panic stricken tour operators are battling to save the tourism industry from the negative fallout, which could sound a death knell to the sector that has starting flourishing in Kashmir. “We are ruined,” cried Mohammad Azim Tuman, chairman Houseboat Owners Association (HBOA). “It is a conspiracy to destroy the tourism sector in Kashmir. We appeal to all concerned authorities to unravel this conspiracy and nab those behind such attacks.” This year, tourism in the Kashmir valley was bursting at the seams. Tourism statistics reveal nearly 5.8 lakh visitors visited Kashmir since January this year, which indicate that the number of arrivals has increased by more than 100% as compared to last year. “This year, a hope had generated among us that tourist sector is coming to grips again. One violent incident could ruin everything. We are closely monitoring the situation and pray that there is no negative fallout,” said Tuman. GM Dag, chairman J&K Tourism Alliance, the apex body of tourist operators, had a different take on Sunday’s attack. “The attack at Gulmarg was not an attack on tourists as such. Tourists were just caught there by accident. I am sure tourists too will realize there is nobody against them in the valley,” he said. J&K tourism director Farooq Ahmad Shah said it was too premature to comment.