SRINAGAR: In order to tap the South Indian market, the department of tourism Kashmir organised a FAM tour for the travel agents from Chennai and Bangalore who visited Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Yusmarg and Srinagar city.
‘Mesmerised’ by the beautiful landscape, unique culture, distinct art and craft, the travel agents were all praise for the rich hospitality they experienced during their travels here, an official handout issued on Wednesday read.
The travel agents also visited budget, high-end properties and the valley’s main USP houseboats.
Ravi, who runs one of the leading tour companies – Arjun Tour and Travels – in Bangalore, said he would send more groups to Kashmir after realising how tourist-friendly people here were.
“I have been sending groups to Kashmir for over a decade but never visited here. Due to the FAM tour, I got an opportunity to visit this place. Trust me, from the day I landed here, it has been a wonderful experience. I had never imagined Kashmir is so beautiful and people are welcoming tourists with open hearts,” said Ravi who arrived in Srinagar on December 8, 2017.
Ravi, who also heads Karnataka Tourism Forum, said Kashmir could be an excellent choice for corporate tourism.
“I visited Gulmarg and hotel accommodations. I think big corporate houses can be roped in for conferences in Kashmir. They will not only have best conferences here but also memorable journey in this beautiful land,” said Ravi who is mostly doing corporate tourism.
Another travel agent Shriharan Balan, Director of Madura Travel Services (P) Ltd in Chennai, minced no bones to shower praise on Kashmir’s hospitality, conferencing facilities and beautiful landscape, the handout read.
Balan has also been selling Kashmir packages to his clients for 30 years. He, however, had grown apprehensive of late about sending them to Kashmir due to negative media publicity. After his visit to Kashmir, Balan plans to send more groups to valley and also extend their stays here.
“I think only in Pahalgam, I can sell the packages to my clients for three days. This visit proved fruitful. We had been selling very similar packages all these years but now we came to know many things like newly developed Pahalgam Club, Pahalgam Golf Course and other products which we can sell now. There are so many other destinations which have not been sold so far. Back home, I will defiantly try to sell more days for my clients when they plan their vacations to Kashmir,” he said.
His apprehensions of safety also proved wrong when he met and interacted with locals here.
“I came here with lot of apprehensions but after completing my tour I realised only media is spoiling Kashmir’s image. More than safety, it is the love people here have for tourists. I visited a shop to buy saffron. The shopkeeper was not only courteous but also offered Kehwa and insisted on having lunch. We will never see such warm people from any other place,” says Balan.
Balan plans to send more tourists here than he was sending earlier.
“If we have such warm people here, why should we send our clients to other places or other countries? Kashmir is a perfect holiday destination.”
Arvind of Crismson Holidays in Bangalore sends almost 5 to 6 groups to Kashmir and Ladakh every month. He had to convince his clients about their safety in Kashmir.
“Now, I will show them my own travel pictures and videos which will convince them further. I think media is portraying Kashmir badly. We didn’t find any difficulty here,” he said.
Travel agents appreciated the department of tourism for the FAM trip which, they said, has helped them get the clear picture of this place.
Director Tourism Kashmir Mahmood A Shah also interacted with the tour operators and assured them that the department would visit Bangalore and Chennai for more confidence building measures.
He said negative media publicity has affected tourist flow to Kashmir which needs to be countered by FAM tours.
“We are organising FAM tours for the leading travel agents who sell large number of groups to Kashmir. We show them around and they interact with the people. They get to know Kashmir and that people here are eagerly waiting to host them and provide them best services,” said the director. “Local travel agents also interact with these visiting tour operators and get business opportunities.” This year, there has been an increased tourist flow from South India to Kashmir which the department wants to tap for winter months and next year’s summer season, the handout read.
The department is planning aggressive marketing campaigns including road shows and seminars in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka this month, it added.