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India orders Kashmir tour operators to cancel Gulmarg bookings for winter games; ‘insanity’ say hotel owners

Calling the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s decision ‘insanity’, leading tour and travel bodies in the disputed region slammed the order to cancel bookings in ski resort Gulmarg to accommodate participants and officials of the “Khelo India National Winter Games”.

India is hosting the week-long Khelo winter games at Gulmarg from February 25.

This is “insanity” on part of the government, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir president Farooq Ahmad Kuthoo told the press on Saturday.

The hoteliers in the ski resort in Baramulla district have been ordered to cancel bookings till the games are hosted.

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 event.

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

The tour operators, Kuthoo said, have made the bookings in the Gulmarg hotels a few months back. “How are we going to convince the tourists that they cannot stay in Gulmarg hotels despite the fact that it is main draw for the tourists.”

“They are all of a sudden telling us to cancel all the bookings,” he said adding: he is still unable to understand the government move.

Analysts believe that the bid to host the event is an attempt to divert attention and subdue the international pressure on India over its handling of Kashmir especially since Joe Biden has become US president. “India is trying to tell the world that everything is normal in Kashmir by holding this event,” a university of Kashmir professor, who wished not to he named, said.

The tour operators 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,” Kathoo 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.

The tour operators are facing a tough time due to pre-booking cancellations at Gulmarg.

If the government had to host the event, a tour operator 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,” he said.

India is hosting the week-long Khelo winter games at Gulmarg from February 25.

This is “insanity” on part of the government, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir president Farooq Ahmad Kuthoo told the press on Saturday.

The hoteliers in the ski resort in Baramulla distric have been ordered to cancel bookings till the games are hosted.

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 event.

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

 The tour operators,  Kuthoo said, have made the bookings in the Gulmarg hotels a few months back. “How are we going to convince the tourists that they cannot stay in Gulmarg hotels despite the fact that it is main draw for the tourists.”

“They are all of a sudden telling us to cancel all the bookings,” he said adding: he is still unable to understand the government move.

Analysts believe that the bid to host the event is an attempt to divert attention and subdue the international pressure on India over its handling of Kashmir especially since Joe Biden has become US president. “India is trying to tell the world that everything is normal in Kashmir by holding this event,” a university of Kashmir professor, who wished not to he named, said.

The tour operators 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,” Kathoo 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.

The tour operators are facing a tough time due to pre-booking cancellations at Gulmarg.

If the government had to host the event, a tour operator 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,” he said.

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