Curtailment In Flight Timings Annoys Kashmir's Tourist Players

15 June 2014
Rising Kashmir
Junaid Kathju

Srinagar: In the backdrop of curtailment in flight timings for renovation and upgradation of the runway at Shiekh-ul-Aalam International Airport has evoked a strong resentment from the tourism players of Kashmir valley. Indian Air force (IAF) has decided to renovate the runway and have ordered Airport Authority of India (AAI) to restrict the flight timing schedule to 4.30 PM. However, tourism players annoyed by the decision are saying that the move of IAF will lead to the cancellation of large number of bookings by people supposed to visit Valley in due course of time. Addressing media persons here, President Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Peerzada Fayaz said the decision of renovating airport in the middle of the tourist season would prove catastrophic to the flow of tourists intending to visit Kashmir. 'Major chunk of the tourists plan their vacations in advance and they book their tickets as per their schedule. They are not ready to reschedule their tickets. It will jeopardize their entire trip. We are receiving number of queries from our customers, skeptical about their visit to Kashmir valley after the announcement,' said Peerzada. TAAK demanded that either IAF should start work after the month of August or change the upper limit of timings to 6 pm or divert all the flights to Awantipora Airbase after the fresh schedule of flight timings. 'We are not against the repairing of airport runway. If there is any problem it should be amended for the safety of all passengers, but there should be a backup plan. Making a sudden announcement for repairing airport in the middle of the tourist season is inappropriate,' said Peerzada. Earlier, Tourism Minister Ghulam Ahmad Mir had said that authorities are doing some repair work at airport to make the night landing possible. 'We are being informed that authorities are going to start working on the runway to make some repairs regarding the night landing from June 15. However, we are pushing the date to June 30 in the view of tourist flow to Kashmir,' said Mir. However, without entertaining the request of state government, IAF has decided to go ahead with their scheduled programme. TAAK President said the authorities should have made the announcement before the start of the tourist season instead of issuing notice at the last moment. 'Had we been informed before the start of the season, travel agents would have sold their packages accordingly. Now, when we have already booked the tickets and have finalized the packages for tourists, how come we will change it at the eleventh hour,' said Peerzada. Vice-President TAAK Manzoor Siddiqui said the decision of IAF will have a very negative impact on tourist arrivals in Kashmir. 'We already witnessed less flow of tourists in the month of May due to elections. However, in June we were getting good flow of tourists but the announcement has once again put us on back foot. I don't understand why every time the tourism fraternity is being targeted,' said Manzoor. He said the decision is going to affect everybody in Kashmir related to tourism. 'It is not only the question of travel agents. Our Shikarawalas, transporters, shopkeepers too will be affected if tourist flow decreases,' he said. Manzoor said if the decision is noir reconsidered the travel agents of other states will divert tourists to other holiday destinations of India. 'Why would any travel agent of other states take pains to send their clients to Kashmir amid chaos? They have already started selling other tourist destinations to them. If a right decision is not taken soon, we will lose the entire season,' said Manzoor.