In a bizarre move, the administration has directed the hoteliers at Gulmarg to cancel all the pre-bookings done for February 25 to March 2, 2021, to accommodate VVIPs, VIPs, athletes and media persons for second Khelo India national winter games.
The directive has come at a time when hotels at Gulmarg were pre-booked till mid-March owing to the huge rush of the travellers to Kashmir over the past few months.
An order to this effect has been issued today from the office of the District Commissioner Baramulla asking the sub-divisional magistrate, Gulmarg to make necessary arrangements for boarding and lodging facilities for the athletes and officials during the Khelo India National Winter Games programme.
“You are requested to ensure the boarding, lodging facilities are provided to the athletes and officials during the event (starting Feb 25th to March 3rd, 2021). Further, all bookings if any on this account may be cancelled,” reads the order signed by Additional Deputy Commissioner Baramulla.
Following the orders, the hoteliers have also issued cancellation emails to the travel agents and to the tourists.
“Dear Business Partner, With heavy heart, we regret to inform you that we have been directed by the administration to release the booking of all rooms from February 26th to March 2nd, 2021 due to Khelo India National Games. In today’s meeting held at Golf Club Gulmarg, we tried our level best to reason with them, but of no use. We have also attached the notification sent to the hoteliers association. Please take up the issue with the administration in case of any query,” reads the email from a hotelier to the travel agents.
“Please note: All bookings stand cancelled,” it further reads.
A hotelier wishing anonymity said they are bound to comply with the government orders.
Director Tourism Kashmir Dr. GN Itoo, however, said the decision was taken after taking all the hoteliers on board.
The agreement between the hoteliers and the government has pushed travel agents to fend for themselves.
President Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) said they cannot convince their clients to cancel the bookings who have pre-booked well in advance.
“It is very unfortunate and the government is non-serious about the tourism industry. Tourism department should come clear on it,” said Kuthoo.
Secretary General of J&K Tourism Alliance Shamim Shah said the travel agents have worked very hard to attract tourists to Kashmir after pandemic travel restrictions were relaxed.
“We were successful in reviving tourism and bringing back tourists in good numbers. However, in the name of holding the national championship, the authorities are only playing spoilsport,” he said.
He said the government should have planned the event in advance and booked the rooms accordingly.
“If it is a national event why weren’t rooms booked in advance?,” he questioned.