JK to become premiere tourist destination: Mufti

Srinagar: Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Sunday said his government, in partnership with New Delhi, will become an entrepreneur in tourism development, as this sector offers new vistas for economic growth and employment in the State.
Mufti was speaking during a conclave on J&K Tourism at Khyber Himalayan Resorts, at Gulmarg, the State’s best known leisure spot.
As per an official handout, unveiling his plans for making J&K an elite eco-tourist destination, the Chief Minister said the people will see in the next six years of the PDP-BJP Government unfolding of his dream to convert J&K into a cherished tourist destination, having achieved global benchmarks in all defined categories.
“The prime objective is to improve the economy of the state and provide gainful employment to people, who are the principle stakeholders,” he added.
Welcoming the country’s top tourism players at Gulmarg, Mufti Sayeed said the idea behind this conclave is to give an opportunity to all the participants to share their vision of how to promote, package and market J&K as a high-end tourist destination.
“It is important to gel Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh as one entity. Only then will we be able to connect with the rest of the country. I am happy the new Governments in J&K and New Delhi offers us that opportunity,” he stated.
Expressing concern over the skyrocketing air fares towards peak tourist season, the Chief Minister requested the Union Tourism Minister, who also holds the charge of Civil Aviation Ministry, to explore operating Srinagar-Jeddah flights for facilitating Umrah pilgrims.
He also urged the Union Minister to consider operating additional flights on Delhi-Srinagar, Delhi-Jammu and Delhi-Leh circuits to counter costly air fares. “We are taking up with concerned authorities the issue of starting night landing facilities at both Srinagar and Jammu airports to increase footfall of tourists,” he added.
Reiterating his commitment to promote business with ease, the Chief Minister said he had already announced a ‘Single Window’ for speedy environmental and other statutory clearances to facilitate flow of private investment in high-end tourism sector projects. “We are committed to reducing regulatory complexities and costs apart from easing bureaucratic barriers,” he said and added that till the master-plans are finalized, the Government will explore increasing eco-friendly intake capacity by resorting to tented accommodation and eco-cottages.
He said that government will channelize the collective energies of the three distinct regions for building on peace dividends through a concerted development effort, particularly in the tourism sector.
Referring to the opportunities the State offers in skiing, heli-skiing, mountaineering, trekking, water sports and ropeways, the Chief Minister also unveiled his plans to promote J&K as a major golf destination. “We already have a golf circuit. We wish to package J&K as a golfing destination. We shall provide chopper facilities between Royal Spring Golf Course at Srinagar and Pahalgam and Gulmarg golf courses which I am sure will do wonders in sports tourism,” he said and added that feasibility checks are being done for laying new golf courses in Sanasar, Sonamarg and Yusmarg.
Raising the issue of much-needed infrastructure upgradation at Gulmarg, Patnitop, Pahalgam and Sonamarg, Mufti Sayeed said the Government is planning to improve road connectivity in a big way so that city-resort networks are improved considerably,” he added.
To promote upmarket tourism, Chief Minister announced chopper sorties for high-end visitors to Bangus Valley, an eco-fragile but equally breathtaking destination. He said the plan to develop Mantalai as an international Yoga destination has already been set into motion.
Highlighting the potential that tourism sector offers in creation of job opportunities for a range of people from shikarawalas to those working in hotels and hospitality sectors, the Chief Minister said rebooting the sector will provide countless job opportunities for the skilled youth in the State.
Speaking on the occasion, the Union Tourism Minister said the New Delhi is committed to provide all assistance to the development of tourism sector in the State.
He announced three circuits for Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh divisions under the new Government of India scheme named Swadesh Darshan. Under this scheme, the Union Government will fund Srinagar-Chatti Padshahi-Hazratbal-Chrar-e-Sharief Spiritual Circuit, State-of-the-art Yoga Centre at Mantalai, Jammu and Leh Buddhist Spiritual Centre in Ladakh.
He said the New Delhi will also begin restoration of its three properties of ITDC Hotel at Gulmarg, Centaur Lakeview Hotel at Srinagar and Ashoka Hotel at Jammu. ”These three properties will become symbol of J&K in tourism sector very shortly,” he asserted.