SRINAGAR: Mentioning the potential for employment generation in Tourism sector for both skilled and non-skilled people, Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah expressed satisfaction over the increase in tourist arrivals in the State particularly in Kashmir valley during last three years adding that efforts are vigorously on to enhance and consolidate this trend.
In an average over one million visitors visited Kashmir valley during the last three years giving considerable fillip to tourism and generated good economic activities for the people.
“We have kept Tourism sector almost all out of the tax regime to help the people whose livelihood is associated with the growth and development of tourism to get benefited and encouraged for upgrading tourist facilities”, he said and added that nature has bestowed Jammu and Kashmir with plenty of tourist attractions and every one of us has the responsibility to protect and preserve the scenic beauty of Jammu and Kashmir for generations to come. He said while departments concerning tourism have special responsibility of preservation and conservation of tourist resorts, the stakeholders in the sector are equally responsible in this regard besides general people.
Addressing Tourism Advisory Committee which met here on Friday under his chairmanship, the Chief Minister heard the views of the representatives of hoteliers, house boat owners, shikara- walas, transporters, taxi operators, traders, travel agents and others organizations and directed the Tourism Department to take note of these and look into them in depth for upgrading and improving tourism facilities and ensuring welfare of the people associated with this sector.
The Chief Minister said that wide ranging initiatives have been taken to make tourism attractive for investors as also enhance the chances of economic activities for youth in this sector which has been of a great economic resource for the people and the State since times immemorial. He said pilgrim, adventure, sport and other related tourism is being encouraged to develop along with the growth of conventional tourism. He said steps are also on to rope in high-end tourists in the State in a greater number.
The Minister for Tourism, G. A. Mir, Minister of State for Tourism, Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo, Principal Secretary Finance, B. B. Vyas, Commissioner Secretary Tourism, Zaffar Ahmad Bhat, Directors of Tourism from Kashmir and Jammu, various senior officers and representatives of different organizations in tourism sector were present in the meeting.
The Chief Minister assured the representatives of Jammu that he would continue his efforts to protect and enhance the importance of Jammu as a tourist destination and as a significant heritage place. “I have already told the Union Government for taking necessary measures to upgrade and improve Jammu Railway Station”, he said adding that the pace of work on various projects including artificial lake being developed at Jammu, will be accelerated so that pilgrims visiting Vaishno Devi and others heritage sites also visit and stay at Jammu.
In a power point presentation, the Secretary Tourism gave an overview of the achievements registered in Tourism sector in the State during the last over five years. He elaborately explained the schemes and projects under implementation in the State at present besides those already completed so far.
He said 27 infrastructure development projects have been completed while at a cost of 17.67 crore and 17 projects are under various phases of completion. He said 9 projects involving Rs.6.30 crore have been submitted to Government of India for approval. He said Trans-Himalayan Cultural Centre involving Rs.22.43 crore, Mega Tourist Circuit from Naagarnagar, Srinagar to Watlab, Sopore costing Rs.38.15 crore and restoration of Rs. 16.92 crore Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex, Jammu is under progress. He said three circuits namely Rs.50 crore Budhist Circuit, Leh, Rs.48 crore Sufi Circuit for Kashmir and Rs.49.45 crore Spiritual Circuit for Jammu have been agreed by the Government of India to fund in three years.
The Secretary Tourism listed the schemes completed and under progress in the State for comprehensive and holistic development of Tourism sector. He also mentioned the measures being implemented for conservation, protection and beautification of Tourist resort, heritage sites and pilgrimage places in the State. He also apprised the Committee of measures underway to promote sports, adventure, pilgrimage and non-conventional tourism in the State.