SRINAGAR: Chief Minister (CM) Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Wednesday directed the authorities to promote the lesser-known destinations in Kashmir Valley as tourist spots, and promised night-landing facility at Srinagar International Airport and a joint Jammu-Kashmir-Ladakh Tourism Conference.
During an interaction with the Tour & Travel Associations of Kashmir in the state’s winter capital Jammu, Sayeed asked the Managing Director (MD) of JK Tourism Development Corporation, Farooq Shah, to immediately undertake forceful marketing drives and FAM (Familiarity) Tours “to promote scenic destinations like Sonamarg, Kokernag, Daksum, Warwan and Dodhpathri”.
The purpose, he said, is to enable the visitors “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,” Sayeed, who also holds tourism portfolio in the ruling PDP-BJP coalition, said.
“The Tourism Development Authorities shall be soon revitalized to focus on uniform spread of tourists across the Valley,” he added.
He said the 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.
He highlighted the “urgent need” to develop “state-of-the-art infrastructure” for “high-end tourists” and of taking effective steps in promoting new destinations to increase the visitors’ inflow into the state.
To overcome the low tourist intake capacity of the Valley, the Chief Minister called for “innovative” remedies like setting up of tents and eco-cottages to accommodate 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,” he said.
Sayeed called tourism a “binding force” between various sectors and promised to make it flourish during his tenure. And his government’s plans for improving the tourism sector, he said, include “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.”
A joint Jammu-Kashmir-Ladakh Tourism Conference will be organised shortly to discuss issues for growth of tourism in the state, he added.
Sayeed asked Shah to offer tour packages that will “showcase J&K as a confluence where nature, pilgrim, and heritage tourism meet”.
“We need tourists who 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 said.
Showkat Pakhtoon of Travel Agents Society of Kashmir (TASK), Peerzada Fayaz of Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), and Rauf Tramboo of Adventure Tour Operators Association of Kashmir (ATOAK) were among others present in the meeting.
The joint delegation of the associations presented a memorandum to the Chief Minister, highlighting their demands for rehabilitative measures post floods.