Rs 4 cr spent on their promotional trips since 2009 but failed to woo foreign visitors to Valley
By Syed Asif Iqbal
Srinagar: About a fortnight ago, secretary tourism Farooq Shah and director tourism Kashmir Mehmood Shah were asked to call off their visit to the Arab Travel Mart held in Dubai from April 25 to April 28 because the government had realised that crores of rupees spent on such visits in the past have proved fruitless.
Vice-president Tourist Trade Interest Guild (TTIG) Bashir Ahmad Karnai said they had invited the two top officials and even the visa for Mehmood’s travel had been readied.
“But they changed their plans at the last minute,” he said while claiming the event was a success.
“We have got three travel inquiries from Dubai for the month of July,” said Karnai. He added that people who participated in the event from various countries still view Kashmir as a war zone, a perception that needs to be changed.
While Karnai sounds optimistic, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is also tourism minister, is learnt to have asked the Shah duo to cancel the trip.
An official said on condition of anonymity that the government believes that foreign trips by ministers and officials to promote Kashmir as tourism destination should be discouraged because they have failed to attract tourists from these countries.
Since 2009, about Rs 4 crore have been spent on the official trips. Farooq has made most of these trips as director tourism.
Both Mehmood Shah and Farooq Shah told Kashmir Reader that the CM was not behind the cancellation of their trip. In fact, they said they had not been invited in the first place.
Both refused to say what number of foreign tourists visited the Valley last year or
In 1989, more than 100,000 foreign tourists visited the Valley. The following year, when the anti-Indian revolt erupted, tourist footfall reduced to a trickle.
A tourism official, however, said on condition of anonymity that about 28000 foreign tourists visited the state in 2015, the majority of them to Ladakh, compared to 9.5 lakh Indian tourists.
Scores of countries have advised their citizens against travelling to the Valley. A few countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom, which lifted these advisories, also do not seem to have convinced their nationals that Kashmir is safe.