SRINAGAR: After executing a series of strategies for Kashmir tourism promotion in India, the Jammu and Kashmir Government is going to host nearly 700 Indian tourism players to lure more tourists to the Valley.
The government, in collaboration with the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), will bring tourism agents and aviation players from March 25 to March 29 to the Valley. They will stay at the Lalit, the Taj and other five-star hotels of the Valley and will be taken to various tourist spots as well during their stay.
The TAAI is India’s largest association of tourism agents in India with a member base of more than 2,000. The last time the TAAI held its convention in the Valley was in 1988.
Zahoor Qari, chairman of TAAI’s J&K chapter, told Kashmir Reader that the main aim is to tell the convention’s invitees about the reality of the Kashmir Valley, which is in contrast to the wrong reportage done by Indian national news channels and newspapers.
“Among the delegates, we have players who have never been to Kashmir but have settled for its image as constructed by the Indian media. We want to tell them the reality that Kashmir is not what you see in Indian media,” Zahoor said.
The delegates will first play golf on the banks of the Dal Lake followed by dinner and conferences at various destinations like Pahalgam and Gulmarg. Zahoor said they have also invited the Indian media. Aviation players have been invited as well.
Last year, Kashmir Tourism players were left despondent with the state’s hitting a palpable low in tourist arrivals. They believe the fall was due to adverse reportage on Kashmir by the Indian national media. Kashmir has been hosting more Indian tourists than foreign ever since the 1990 insurgency because of travel advisories issued by different countries.
According to the economic survey report that was tabled in the ongoing budget session, Jammu and Kashmir has received the lowest arrival of tourists in 2017 in the last six years.
The state could not attract tourists despite the fact that the Tourism department launched several initiatives. The department’s main strategy has been to dispel wrong notions of Kashmir in the states of India, a strategy to be adopted by the Government of India’s special representative Dineshwar Sharma. For this, the department has run advertisements on TV channels, organised road shows and hosted actors, singers and film festivals in Kashmir.
However, hosting tourism agents will be another strategy. The TAAI’s Kashmir chapter has convinced the group to hold the convention in the Valley this time when it was otherwise scheduled for China.
“During our road shows in south India, we invited the president of the TAAI to participate. He quickly liked it. Then we held several meetings during which they were convinced,” said Zahoor. “TAAI members also visited the Valley many times and held conversations with the tourism director, minister and secretary.”
Zahoor said the Valley has left such an impression on them that the recent militant attacks in Karan Nagar, and Jammu have not brought a change in their plans. Though, Zahoor said, many stakeholders have called the office bearers of TAAI asking to change the Kashmir venue, but they still preferred the Valley.