‘Kashmir Calling’ package to increase tourist footfall: Mufti

KL Report

SRINAGAR

In a bid to promote Valley tourism, the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Thursday announced a ‘Kashmir Calling Package’ for visitors to boost occupancy levels this season.

He also asked the hotel and houseboat owners to offer substantial off-season discounts for bringing in more tourists to the Valley.

Mufti Sayeed said this while interacting with various delegations affiliated to tourism and business associations, here today.

Those who met the Chief Minister included delegations from Houseboat Owners Association (HBOA), Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCC&I) and Kashmir Hoteliers and Restaurateurs Association (KHARA).

Mufti Sayeed said several add-on packages like light-and-sound show in Mughal Gardens, Dunga and Shikara cruises in Dal lake and Jhelum, dedicated food streets and Bukharas in Srinagar, golf, river rafting and adventure sports packages to increase tourist footfall will be promoted this season. He said the heritage sector will also get a big boost by promotion of Shar-e-Khas of Srinagar city.

The Chief Minister said he has already taken up with Centre the issues of special chartered flights to counter rising air-fares, allowing night-landing facility at Srinagar Airport and starting international flights from Srinagar to Saudi Arabia for Umrah pilgrims. “The travellers can now avail LTC on private airlines also. Previously, the facility was only available on Indian Airlines carrier,” he stated.

While interacting with the houseboat owners, Mufti Sayeed said he will promote Dal lake as a World Heritage site for which immediate steps are required to realign houseboats for facilitating collective sanitation. “Dal is an eco-system and it has to be preserved for posterity. We need to take steps to realign the houseboats so that proper sanitation is ensured. I will also explore several offered received by the Government in this regard,” he stated.

The Chief Minister said the Tourism Department will also operate Jhelum cruises for heritage visitors and beautify Chinar Bagh and Jhelum banks from Zero Bridge to Veer.

There are around 950 houseboats which are registered with the tourism department. Favoring revival of Dunga cruises in the Dal lake, the Chief Minister asked the houseboat owners association to offer attractive packages for visitors this season so that the occupancy levels are increased.

In his meeting with KHARA delegation, Mufti Sayeed said he has already passed directions for constitution of a Single Window system which will collectively examine issues of periodic renewals of hotel registrations, installation of STPs and obtaining of NoCs from all concerned departments to raise / renovate their assets. He said the Government will soon finalize master-plans for proper development of city and resorts.

The KCC&I delegation appreciated the efforts of the Chief Minister in prioritizing the tourism and business sectors. They demanded immediate repairs of National Highway and inter-district roads which have been severely damaged in last year’s floods.

Referring to the dovetailing of Handicrafts and food sectors with tourism industry, Mufti Sayeed said the handicrafts products will soon be patented and price-tagged to offer genuine indigenous goods to the visitors. “Tourists are ignorant of the great art of making exclusive handicrafts products in the Valley. Some showcase destinations have to be identified which can be shown to the visitors,” he added.

The Chief Minister said the Government will explore possibility of establishing a new institute of hotel management which will raise qualified personnel for services and hospitality sectors, which are prerequisites in high-end tourism. He was also briefed about the improvements to be made in Valley’s fruit mandis and the potential the State offers in cultivation of aromatic and medicinal plants.

Mufti Sayeed said the Government will revive the market-intervention scheme to promote horticulture sector. He said he will also take up the issue of streamlining Haj & Umrah services in the State.

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