In a bid to boost the fortunes of an industry plagued by militancy and recovering from last year’s floods, Jammu & Kashmir ministry of tourism opened it’s first Travel Mart since1988 at the Sher I Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said, “It is my vision to make Kashmir an all seasons destination. The floods had devastated the Valley and building back the infrastructure is a time consuming process. I am happy that the travel trade in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad are trying very hard and supporting us in changing the perception of Kashmir as an unsafe destination. There should be no ‘off season’ for this beautiful state. We can do this by offering our adventure tourism, mountaineering, golf tourism as weekend packages for domestic tourists. We want to introduce skiing not just at Gulmarg, but also at Pahalgam and Sonmarg. We need to make cycling tracks and offer more such activities than just offering gardens and snow.”
He added that an international yoga centre is being built at Patnitop and water sports will also be given a boost. He suggested making houseboat clusters so as to reduce pollutants in the Dal Lake. Sayeed was also keen on organising a Davos type tourism conclave in J&K where the corporate sector from all over the country and industry stakeholders can convene together with the prime minister too attending it.
The state tourism secretary, Shailendra Kumar said that the aim was to increase tourist arrivals into Kashmir from the current 20 lakh to 80 lakh visitors and in Jammu from 1.10 lakh to 1.5 crore. “Our talks with the film industry is finally bearing fruit with the Salman Khan movie being shot here in the Valley. Rakesh Om Mehra has also shown his intent to film his next, the Anil Kapoor’ s son launch movie here. Citing the example of Japan, we need to make the destination affordable. We need to get out of the ‘expensive’ image tag,” he affirmed.
The three day Travel Mart also has participation from international buyers from 11 countries including Thailand, Korea, Italy, Malaysia, UK, among others.