Kolkata: Thousands of tourists who had planned their Durga Puja vacation in the Kashmir Valley next month are now rushing to cancel their trips due to the devastating floods in the state.
Tour operators said because of discounts being provided by various airlines, the number of bookings for travel to Kashmir from West Bengal was as high as 60,000 during the Puja season.
"But around 70-75 per cent of travellers to J&K have cancelled their trips. The rest are thinking twice now. Even we don't encourage people to travel during or immediately after a natural calamity," Anil Punjabi, chairman (east) of the Travel Agents Federation of India, said.
He says people are worried about what situation the tourists spots will be in the post-calamity scenario and whether the infrastructure will be good enough for travelling and a pleasant stay with their friends and family.
The J&K tourism department has already issued a flood advisory for tourists advising them to postpone their travel plans to the state in view of the prevailing flood situation.
The work of tour operators have doubled now as tourists are demanding alternate travel plans besides cancellation of the existing tour.
Big tourist spots like the beaches of Goa and the backwaters of Kerala are being preferred as alternate tourists destinations.
Durga Puja season, which falls in the first week of October, is a major vacation period for people of West Bengal as all offices and educational institutes are closed for at least 3-4 days.
Businessman Abhijeet Churoria, who planned a week-long family tour to Kashmir said he was scared to travel to the state even after the situation returns to normal next month.
"After the Uttarakhand disaster we don't want to take any risk in the mountains. Even in Kashmir we are hearing how tourists are left stranded. I know the situation will return to normal next month but we are still scared to travel. Now we are changing our tour to Goa," he said.
Budget is another concern for tourists who are changing their plans.
"They do not want to pay more and after cancellations we have to keep sure their budget doesn't change. But the airline rates have changed since then. So we are having a tough time in managing it," said Punjabi, who runs ARES Travels.
Besides other tourists spots in the state, many had also planned for Vaishno Devi 'darshan' and visit Ladakh.