Key to tourism growth lies in modern infrastructure, promoting new destinations: CM Mufti

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Tour, travel operators call on Mufti

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 ‘Tourism has great potential to generate jobs’; ‘Tourism Development Authorities to be revitalized’

Marketing drives to evenly spread visitors’ inflow’; ‘Tented accommodation, eco-cottages to increase intake capacity’ 

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 JAMMU: Identifying tourism industry as one of the prioritized sectors of the new Government, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today highlighted the urgent need to develop state-of-the-art infrastructure for high-end tourists as well taking effective steps in promoting new destinations to increase the visitors’ footfall in the State.

The Chief Minister, who also holds the charge of the Tourism portfolio, said this while interacting with a delegation of Tour & Travel Associations of Kashmir, here today.

Managing Director, Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC), Farooq Ahmad Shah, who also holds the charge of Director Tourism, Kashmir, was present on the occasion.

Expressing concern over the considerably low intake capacity of the Valley to accommodate ever-increasing flow of tourists, especially high-end, the Chief Minister said there is an urgent need to create sufficient accommodation to meet the demands of incoming tourists. “Tourism will not develop unless it comes with the required paraphernalia. We have to be innovative in our thinking to make Kashmir valley a leading tourist destination of the country and abroad. Tented accommodation and building eco-cottages at tourist resorts is one innovative way to increase the low intake capacity,” the Chief Minister stated.

The Chief Minister asked the MD JKTDC to immediately undertake forceful marketing drives and FAM (Familiarity) Tours to promote scenic destinations like Sonamarg, Kokernag, Daksum, Warwan and Dodhpathri so that visitors are able to explore the Valley beyond known destinations like Gulmarg and Pahalgam. “Nature has bestowed us with beauty in abundance. We have to take steps to utilize idle tourism infrastructure at these nature spots for which New Tourism Development Authorities were created when I first took over in 2002,” he said and added that the Tourism Development Authorities shall be soon revitalized to focus on uniform spread of tourists across the valley.

Describing tourism as a binding force that joins several other key sectors like the famed handicrafts / handloom and food industry of Kashmir, the Chief Minister assured that tourism, which has been flagged by the present Government as one of the key sectors, will flourish in the days to come. “We see tourism and industry as areas where we have great potential to generate jobs for our skilled unemployed youth,” the Chief Minister said.

The Chief Minister revealed that he will take up all issues like allowing night-landing facility at the Srinagar International Airport, realignment of the houseboats in the Dal Lake, putting to use the unutilized tourism infrastructure and better road and power connectivity so that bottlenecks in promotion of tourism are removed immediately. He added that a joint Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh Tourism Conference will be organized shortly to discuss issues for growth of tourism in the State.

Stressing the need to promote adventure and high-end tourism in the State, the Chief Minister said new Tourism Circuits shall be added and several places like the Suru Valley in Ladakh, Jai-Bhaderwah in Jammu and the Mughal Road that connects Poonch with Kashmir Valley shall be taken up on priority.

Asking Director Tourism to explore ways and means to offer package tours to the visitors that showcase J&K as a confluence where nature, pilgrim and heritage tourism meet, the Chief Minister credited the sector for playing a vital role in encapsulating and defining Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh in its right perspective. “We need tourists that travel to Kashmir to come to Jammu for paying obeisance at Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine and vice versa. Similarly, those visiting the enchanting land of Ladakh should travel to Kashmir and Jammu to see and enjoy the unique oneness of J&K. This will come only when proper marketing strategies are in place,” he added.

The tour operators’ delegation, led by Nasir Shah, presented a memorandum to the Chief Minister highlighting their demands which include need for special rehabilitation policy for the flood-hit travel bodies, soft loan, incentive-based schemes, better marketing drives and removal of travel advisories by various countries. They also urged the Chief Minister to take up the issue of rising air-fare and regulated and hassle-free movement of tourist cabs on resort routes like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg.

Those present in the delegation included Showkat Pakhtoon, Travel Agents Society of Kashmir (TASK), Peerzada Fayaz, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Manzoor Pakhtoon, J&K Tourism Alliance, Nazir Ahmad Mir, Association of Kashmir Tour Operators, Jan Mohammad, Urban Travel Agents Association, G. R. Siah, J&K Pilgrim & Leisure Tour Operators Forum, Nazir A Gosani, Travel Trade Interest Guild, Rauf Tramboo, Adventure Tour Operators Association of Kashmir (ATOAK), Hameed Wangnoo, Domestic Tour Operators Association of Kashmir, Shamim A. Shah, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAI-JKC), Khaliq Wangnoo, Indian Association of Tour Operators and Hameed Narwari, Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India.