SRINAGAR: Desperate to attract tourists to Kashmir, the government has enlisted tourism players to engage with their counterparts in Bangladesh. Talking to reporters on Monday, Director of Tourism Department, Mehmood Shah, said that the maximum numbers of foreign tourists coming to India in the past two years have been from Bangladesh, but Kashmir has been receiving only a minuscule share of them. To attract them to the Valley, tourism stakeholders have decided to increase their interaction with the country, he said.
“Last year, India received about 17 lakh Bangladesh tourists, the highest arrival from all countries. Of these, we received only 1,700, not even the tip of the iceberg. They represent a huge potential, and we will be working to get more of them,” Shah said.
Shah was speaking in presence of 15 top Bangladeshi tourist agents, who are on a six-day visit to Kashmir. The agents are here as a delegation of Bangladesh Tour Operators Association, invited to Kashmir by a private tourist operator.
President of the Bangladesh Tour Operators Association, Rezaul Ekram, told Kashmir Reader that after seeing the beautiful landscapes of Kashmir, they will advertise Kashmir in Bangladesh as a top tourist destination. He said that earlier, too, they have made attempts to get support from Kashmir travel operators, but without success. This time, he said, Kashmiris themselves approached the Bangladesh association.
“It is better to have regional cooperation than look for European and American tourists,” he said.
Ekram said he was optimistic for a long-term relationship between Kashmir and Bangladesh. “The trouble in the Valley does not matter to Bangladesh because our country is also facing multiple problems. It would be a rare Bangladeshi to have such concerns,” he said. “The fact is that Kashmir is safe for tourists.”
For the past two years, the Kashmir tourism industry has been reeling from a record low in tourist arrivals. Many believe that the fall in tourist numbers is due to adverse reportage on Kashmir by Indian news channels. Kashmir has been hosting more Indian tourists than foreigners ever since the insurgency in the 1990s, when travel advisories were issued by many countries.
According to the state’s economic survey report tabled in the state assembly this year, Jammu and Kashmir witnessed the lowest arrival of tourists in 2017 in the past six years. The state could not attract tourists despite the Tourism Department launching several initiatives. The department’s main strategy has been to dispel wrong notions of Kashmir in the rest of India, a strategy said to be advocated by Government of India’s special representative to Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma. For this, the department has run advertisements on TV channels, organised road shows and hosted actors, singers and film festivals in Kashmir.