Srinagar, July 04: Sipping Kashmiri Khewa and fruit juice in a busy restaurant at Lal Chowk, a group of tourists from Czech Republic are on a maiden visit to Kashmir. Showering praises on the beauty of Srinagar, the group, however, were annoyed over keeping their visit confined to just three days but pledged to come again for a long trip soon to explore the natural beauty of the valley.
“We had heard a lot about Kashmir from friends who would often visit this place. Somehow, we decided to visit Srinagar. This time our trip is confined to three days only. We have scheduled to visit Dharamshala tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Michieli, a woman tourist, who is leading the group of five tourists. “I can speak English among all and that’s what has made me team leader… Laughs!”
She said though the group was on their maiden visit to the Valley just for three days, they were mesmerized by the beauty of Srinagar especially Dal lake. “The lake is beautiful. The group members’ enjoyed swimming in the lake and also took a shikara ride to explore the lake.”
Michieli said that though Srinagar looks like a developed city but there is a lot of traffic congestion. “There is a room for more development. Traffic can be streamlined more tourist attractions including fountains etc can be placed to attract more tourists,” she said. Asked how the group feels about the beauty of Kashmir, she said this time their trip was for just three days and they couldn’t travel much. “We travelled to just a few places and spent most of the time in and around Dal lake only,” she said. Asked whether more tourists were expected from European countries, Michieli and her group members said: “They will come again for a long trip. Maybe for ten days or a fortnight. This place has natural beauty.”
Michieli and her group are staying at a hotel on Boulevard. “Next time, we will stay in a houseboat and travel all over Kashmir,” she said amid a smile. Asked how they felt about the successful G-20 Tourism Working Group meeting held in the month of May this year in Srinagar, Michieli feigned ignorance about the development. “I didn’t hear much about G-20 in Srinagar. If it was held that’s a good step,” she said.
A male group member of the group told news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) that more tourists from European countries are planning to visit Kashmir this year. “Some of our friends are waiting for vacations. You can expect more foreign tourist arrivals this year,” he said. To a query about weather, he said the weather was a bit hot for them but “we are happy.” He praised the people of Kashmir and food. “People here are so hospitable and the food is amazing,” he beamed.
Pertinently, many foreign countries have issued travel advisory that bars its citizens from travelling to Kashmir. In 2019, post abrogation of Article 370, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia issued fresh advisory asking its citizens not to travel to Kashmir. However, the arrival of foreigners from South East Asian Countries (SEAC) this year raised the hopes of tour operators as they were desperately waiting for the foreign guests and so was the government. This year, as per official figures, over 15000 foreign tourists arrived in Kashmir, which was more than the last year. With tourists from European countries visiting Kashmir, the tour operators and the UT administration are upbeat.
“This is a welcome development indeed. We expect a significant rise in the foreign tourist arrivals in Kashmir this year,” an official in the tourism department told KNO. J&K’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Tuesday said that post G-20 meeting in Srinagar, foreign tourist arrivals have increased significantly across Kashmir. This year, the UT administration hopes to see 2 crore tourists in Kashmir against last year 1.88 crore—(KNO)