Travelling to J&K has become a lot cheaper. TravTalk gains some insight in a tête-à-tête with Farooq Ahmad Shah, Former Secretary Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir.
Tourism has been the backbone of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy and the recent strides that the government has taken to boost tourism in the state bear witness to this fact. Farooq Ahmad Shah, Former Secretary Tourism, Government of Jammu & Kashmir, reveals, “At the moment, the chief focus of the state is on creating good connectivity throughout the state, encouraging private players to invest in the tourism sector and also focusing on creating and enabling excellent services at the tourist resorts.”
The tourism facilitators are presently offering very attractive concessions to rake in good tourist arrivals; in addition to this, the J&K Government has decided to provide a 50 per cent rebate on travel packages and lodgings. This rebate will be made available across all properties owned by the J&K Tourism Development Corporation. Peeved at the negative publicity the state gets, Shah says, “Despite these initiatives, we continue to be hindered by the negative things and images that are being projected about us in the media.”
As the state continues to battle with its dwindling image as a ‘safe’ destination, the tourism figures for Kashmir this year have seen a decline, yet the government officials remain confident of its rise. The Jammu and Ladakh divisions on the other hand have witnessed a good increase, with Ladakh recording a 10 per cent growth for the first half of the year. Talking about the impetus being given to the MICE sector, Shah added, “Today worldwide, MICE is being given the priority and we are no different. We have lots to offer to this segment at our various modern facilities in Srinagar, Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Jammu and even in Ladakh.”
With respect to GST, ensuring the destination stays affordable is something that the tourism secretary hopes will be taken into consideration by those at the helm of affairs. The state tourism ministry has planned to market the state more aggressively in the coming months in hopes of getting prioritised by tour operators for all travel segments including MICE in the near future.