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Sharjah flight a ray of hope for Srinagar tourism industry

Srinagar : A ray of hope has been rekindled for the fledgling tourism industry here following months-long lockdowns induced by Covid, as Union Home Minister Amit Shah flagged off the first Srinagar-Sharjah flight on the first day of his visit since revocation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

The general feeling among the stakeholders is that the air connectivity between Srinagar and Sharjah would increase foreign tourist arrivals to Kashmir.

“I am very optimistic that the Srinagar-Sharjah flight is going to help us in the long run,” said the president of the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Farooq Kuthoo.



Kuthoo said it was a long pending demand which has been finally met. “I am sure the Srinagar-Sharjah flight is going to have a good impact on the Kashmir tourism industry,” he added.



‘Go First’, formerly known as ‘GoAir’, would operate four flights a week between Srinagar and Sharjah. The flights will be on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. An official of the airline said that 139 adults and three infants boarded the first flight which takes nearly four hours to reach Sharjah.

Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Sheikh Ashiq said it was a much-needed initiative.

“Though it got delayed by 10 or 11 years it is a very welcome step. It will not only ease travel in the coming days but will open trade links directly. So hopefully trade avenues will open for people who intend to export. This will encourage others and we may have more direct flights to other destinations,” Ashiq said.

However, there is fear among a section about the commercial viability of the flight and if it can sustain for a long time as a similar effort was made over 12 years ago when the first international flight from Srinagar to Dubai was started in 2009, by Air India Express.

The service, however, was discontinued due to low demand and also Pakistan did not allow use of its air space.



“The resumption of air connectivity is a welcome step but my only concern is if it will be sustainable,” said General Secretary All J&K Hajj Umrah Tour Organisers Association, Umar Nazir Tibet Baqal. “For tourism to get a boost, it is necessary that we should have stability here as no one wants to enter disturbed territory.”



There are nearly one lakh Kashmiris, who are working or are settled in the UAE and this flight is going to help them a lot, J&K Tourism Secretary, Sarmad Hafeez, said, adding the international flight would help not only tourism but also other sectors.

“The international flight is going to be of great help not just to tourism, but will help move cargo, the Kashmir handicrafts and Kashmir produce to a great extent. And soon we will have new international flights,” he said.

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