GERMANY is the first country in Europe to withdraw restrictions on travel to Kashmir.
“The travel advisory issued by the federal foreign office for German nationals travelling to the region has been revised,” said Jens Urban, a spokesperson for the German embassy in New Delhi, in a press release.
This decision follows a visit by German ambassador to India, Thomas Matussek, to Srinagar. The revised German advisory asks tourists to employ trained guides and avoid border areas.
According to the new advisory, the situation has sufficiently calmed down for foreigners to travel to the idyllic Himalayan valley for leisure and winter sports. The slopes of Gulmarg, Sonemarg and Pahalgaon offer good skiing opportunities.
A travel advisory ban has been in force since the abduction of some tourists by militants in 1995. Most European countries, including the UK and France, as well as the US, still have advisories in place.
With the valley now peaceful, domestic tourists have started to return this year. The revival has been so dramatic this summer that the number of tourists in 2011 may exceed the record number of 722,000 registered in 1989.
Rajat Sawhney of New Delhi-based Rave Tours & Travels, who is also the general secretary of the Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India: “For almost two decades, the Indian traveller has been deprived of the most beautiful destination in India. People like to travel to Kashmir for its pristine beauty. Ninety-five per cent of the tourists this season are Indians and the rest are foreigners who come for adventure tourism.”
The New Delhi-Srinagar sector has 16 flights per day that are fully booked in advance.