J&K gears up for another season

Safe to welcome tourists, Jammu & Kashmir is now set to witness a major influx of tourists during the summer season as the state promotes new unexplored destinations.

TT Bureau

Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Tourism partnered with All Ladakh Tour Operators Association of India (ALTOI) to organise Ladakh Travel Meet in Delhi recently. Representing J&K Tourism at the event. Rigzin Samphel (IAS), Secretary Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir, said, “The idea behind sponsoring this event was to facilitate the local association in coordinating with stakeholders in Delhi whilst promoting J&K. This was one of the events in the series of events that we are holding in Maharashtra, Delhi and Ahmedabad.”

After the recent Pulwama terror attack, a lot changed for tourism in the state. “There was a lull immediately after the unfortunate event. But now we are quite optimistic as of late, the increase in bookings gives us a lot of hope to be able to sail through the momentary phase. We are positive that the season should be good,”
he claimed.

The department is working towards making people aware of how safe the state currently is. “J&K has always been safe. The idea is to clear the misinformation. In fact, even if one goes by any of the government’s data, all three regions are very safe—Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu,” shared Samphel.

J&K has always been safe. The idea is to clear the misinformation. In fact, goes by any of government’s data, all three regions are very safe—Ladakh, Kashmir & Jammu

When asked about the number of tourist arrivals in the state in 2018, he revealed, “To begin with Ladakh, particularly in Leh, the number of tourists in the last calendar year was three lakhs, while the population of Leh is about 1.3 lakhs. This was the first time that the tourist number crossed three lakhs. In the Kashmir valley, the number of foreigners, who are known to exercise a lot of due diligence before visiting a place, was high by 45 per cent. In Jammu, we are grateful to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine because of which we get almost a crore of tourists. Of late, we have been trying to promote the western part of Jammu, which includes Rajouri, Punj, the Mughal road, etc.”

One of the challenges for J&K, according to Samphel, is the problem of plenty. “We have many destinations but what is important is that we push tourists towards Gulmarg, Pahalgam or Leh, to areas which are worth visiting, but not promoted. For example, there is a beautiful place called Butapatri near Gulmarg and another village called Aro near Pahalgam. The same is the case with Ladakh-Leh in particular—the Shum area is on the way to Srinagar and the entire area is yet to be explored. Recently, the Prime Minister opened nine tourist and travel routes for the first time for travellers. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more tourists in these areas. Same is the case with Kargil; Suru Valley is multiplying Pahalgam 10 times in a stretch, and so is the case with Zanskaar. These are the areas we are trying
to promote.”

Insisting that the role of the government is to facilitate in creating the environment and to promote tourism, he said, “We are going through a very aggressive promotion and advertising campaign. This is part of the promotional campaign that we are conducting along with outreach activities. Very soon, you will see a lot of advertisements from the Department of Tourism in television as well as in print media.”

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