Drop in visitors to Srinagar: Some blame situation, others say season has ended

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on September 05, 2019 Published on September 05, 2019

As the condition in Jammu and Kashmir continues to be unstable and uncertain after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, not only has the number of visitors to the Valley seen a sharp decline, but major travel agents are also not selling packages till September.

A cross-section of industry players that BusinessLine spoke to said that there has been a 50-60 per cent drop in passenger traffic since the abrogation of Article 370.

“Before August 5, the Yatra was called off and people were asked to leave. Now, very few want to go there,” said a travel agent. One reason for this decline could be that the State is a tourist destination and the season is now over. However, there are others who feel that uncertain situation in the Valley is the reason for the drop in business travellers to the State.

Industry watchers believe that the domestic airlines with regular flights to Srinagar — Air India, Vistara, IndiGo and SpiceJet — are continuing operations in an attempt to show the rest of the country that the situation in the Valley is near normal. However, their websites reveal a different picture.

Most of the the airlines’ websites allow a booking between Delhi and Srinagar or return for September 5, for maximum of nine passengers, on the multiple flights that they operate daily between the two cities. .

The Air India website allows booking on two of the three flights operating on Thursday between Srinagar and Delhi on September 5 at ₹46,260 including taxes.

A travel agent said: “Normally the Srinagar flights are full. It was basically popular as a tourist destination. But at this time, given what is being shown in the media, who would want to travel to Srinagar?”

Pilots who fly to Srinagar also confirmed that there had been a drop but said it is difficult to quantify.

What is muddying the waters is that two domestic airlines have not extended waiver on cancellation or change of date for travel to Srinagar beyond end-August, while another airline’s deadline for making changes without charges runs out on September 7.

Asked if the pilots feared anything else while flying into Srinagar since August 5, a pilot said, “The airport is safe to land in. The length of the air field is long enough to take jets. Yes, it is a tricky airport to land which is why experienced pilots are only allowed to fly there.”

Srinagar airport handled over 2.71 lakh domestic travellers in July, the last month for which data is available on the Airports Authority of India’s website recording a 10 per cent growth over the same month last year.

Published on September 05, 2019
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