In a bid to improve footfall of tourists this summer, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, has sought cooperation from all tourism and business stakeholders in reviving the state’s economy which primarily depends on its lucrative tourism industry.
The Chief Minister was interacting with a number of tourism and business delegations today.
Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Navin K. Chaudhary and Secretary Tourism, Floriculture, Gardens & Parks, Farooq A. Shah were also present on the occasion.
While interacting with various delegations, the Chief Minister said tourism spreads best by the word of mouth and the players associated with the industry have a lot at stake in establishing a feel-good factor among the tourists. “It is the collective responsibility of all stakeholders to see that no visitor is harassed,” she observed.
Seeking support in maintaining peace at all costs, the Chief Minister said state’s tourism and business fraternity has to suffer the brunt when atmosphere of peace is disturbed in the valley.
During her meetings with delegations of J&K Tourism Alliance & Travel Agents’Association of Kashmir (TASK), Mehbooba Mufti said the government over the last one year has made strenuous efforts in projecting Kashmir as a world-class tourist destination. She added that there are still many areas which need to be tapped to open new avenues to enhance tourist experience.
“We have to reach out to the tourists with open arms so that they experience the rich hospitality for which we are famous all over the world,” she said, while urging hoteliers, houseboat owners, shikarawallas, ponywallas, tour and travel operators to facilitate visitors so that they go back with fond memories of the place.
The Chief Minister, who also holds the charge of the Tourism portfolio, said the department is developing a mobile application which will enable the visitors to make online bookings and reservations in hassle-free manner. She also asked the Tourism Secretary to operate pre-paid taxis from strategic locations like the airports and railway stations to facilitate the tourists. “Road shows will be organized in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia from where valley receives a fairly large number of tourists,” she added.
Asking the Tourism Secretary to promote paying guest scheme among people residing in downtown areas, Mehbooba Mufti said the government is also actively pursuing withdrawal of advisories imposed by some countries on visiting the state.
Both the delegations appreciated the efforts made by the Chief Minister in reviving the tourism industry which include operation of early morning and night flights from Srinagar Airport and extending LTC to central government employees travelling to J&K on private airlines, which will go a long way in improving the footfall of visitors.
Some of the issues brought into the notice of the Chief Minister included exorbitant airfares, hassle-free disembarkation of tourists at airports, uniformity in hotel rates, revival of cycling tracks along Boulevard, harassment of tourists at various resorts like Gulmarg and Sonamarg and cleaning of the Dal Lake.
A delegation of Adventure Tour Operators of Kashmir, led by Rauf Tramboo, also met the Chief Minister and highlighted the potential of adventure tourism in the state. He said adventure tourism has emerged as one of the fastest growing segments in travel industry and the state is ideally-placed to venture into this area by roping in big Corporate houses and adventurists.
The Chief Minister asked the Tourism Secretary to conceptualize a plan for promotion of adventure tourism activities at Tossa Maidan and Bangus valley. She stressed upon having separate adventure sports calendar for activities like rafting, heli-skiing, mountaineering, trekking and paragliding.
The Chief Minister also floated the idea of incorporating adventure tourism in school curriculum at high-secondary level to generate awareness among young aspiring students.
A delegation of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), led by Mushaq Ahmad Wani also met the Chief Minister and apprised her about the issues related to promotion of trade and industry. These issues include revisiting the J&K Industrial Policy and promotion of valley’s export-oriented handicraft industry.
Mehbooba Mufti assured the delegation that their demands would be looked into and addressed on priority.
Another delegation of Basix Social Enterprises, led by Raja Muzaffar, also called on the Chief Minister and briefed her of the initiatives it has taken in promotion of skill development, livelihood for low-income households, solid waste management and access to institutional finance. He said the group, which has started working in Kashmir, focuses on areas of unemployment, facilitating credit from banking institutions and providing market linkages so that the youth are trained in hospitality and digital sectors like IT, in which the demand for human resource is growing every day.
The delegation also discussed with the Chief Minister its model of household-level waste collection with segregation by using odour-free technology. To begin with, the organization has offered its services to SMC for taking up five small wards for solid waste management on a pilot basis.