Minister for Tourism, Tassaduq Hussain Mufti on Monday said the state government has adopted a multipronged strategy to harness the tourism potential and position Jammu and Kashmir as the leading Global destination adding that the idea is to make the tourism sector as the principal engine of the State’s economic growth.
Winding up the discussion on Demands for Grants of Tourism and allied Departments for the year 2018-19, the Minister, in his maiden speech in the Legislative Assembly, said government’s endeavor would be to frame a tourism policy for not just creating jobs but to ensure a better livelihood for the people.
“We should not ignore the environmental consequences while creating infrastructure and exploring new destinations,” he said and mentioned the emerging situation around Pyangong Lake, Ladakh and Sonamarg in Kashmir due to uncontrolled human activities. He stressed on the need of laying equal focus on the waste management in the environmentally fragile destinations.
“To achieve the set targets, the Tourism department is working in a mission mode to make JK a destination that is natural in its environs, global in standards, modern in outlook, traditional in its hospitality, mystical in sensibilities and entertaining in its experience” he added.
The Minister said that a self-sustained tourism model has been envisioned and is being implemented in all three regions of the state for inclusive socio-economic development and ensuring the emergence of each region as the exclusive independent tourist destination.
He said that emphasis is being laid on creating durable assets in all the potential tourist spots of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh so that a good tourist influx is influenced towards the state.
The Minister informed the House that under PMDP funding, the department envisages consolidation/creation/strengthening of existing infrastructure across the state, bringing about quality facilities like amusement parks, golf courses, Light and Sounds shows, river cruises food streets, wayside facilities to attract both domestic and high-end tourists.
He said that PMDP funding would be utilized keeping in view various aspects including development of theme-based Tourist Circuits on the principle of high tourist value competitiveness which further enhance employment opportunity to the general masses, developing economically favourable Tourism Infrastructure to improve the livelihood, community based development of projects coupled with training, capacity building measures and to un-tab the outdoor activities in adventure tourism.
Listing the achievements of Tourism department during 2017-18, the Minister informed that under centrally sponsored Swadesh Darshan Scheme, various projects were taken up, of which many have been completed and remaining are at the advance stage of completion.
Giving details of the projects taken up under the Scheme, he said that development of Sound and Light Show with water fountains at SKICC Ghats at a cost of Rs 8 crore and Rs 1.53 crore Eco log Multipurpose hall at Apple Resort at Chinniwooder in Anantnag has been completed, while wayside amenities in Bijbehara at a cost of Rs 1.5 crore and development of Tourism infrastructure at Suchetgarh Border at a cost of Rs 4.92 crore is in progress.
Under Prime Minister Development Package (PMDP), the Minister said that various projects including development of Tourist facilities at Bhagwati Nagar, Jammu involving a cost of Rs 15.96 crore, development of Tourist facilities at SKICC at a cost of Rs 9.25 crore, development of water Sports at Manasbal Lakeworth Rs 5 crore, development of tourist facilities at Dal lake at a cost of Rs 4.5 crore and Eco log huts at Jammu Tawi Golf Course, involving cost of Rs 8 crore are in progress and shall be completed on fast track basis. He said projects under PMDP have been taken up at an accumulative cost of Rs 32.7crore, while works at Tourist Convention Centre, Srinagar has taken up under State Plan at a cost of 12 crores are expected to be completed by June 2018.
With regard to the status of Jammu Ropeway project, he said that project is at the advanced stage of completion. He said the Section from Bahu to Mahamaya Park is expected to be completed by March 2018 and that from Peerkho to Mahamaya is expected to be completed by May 2018. He said that work on Patnitop Ropeway and tendering process for Shiv Khori Cable Car Project is also in progress adding that the department has envisaged promotion of Jammu as an independent tourist destination by way of developing a Heritage and Temple circuit at Mantalai.
“To promote pilgrimage centres through a holistic infrastructure development approach, Ministry of Tourism, GoI has sanctioned Rs 42 crore for development of Hazratbal under Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD). On the same lines, a project has been formulated for integrated development of Katra” he added.
Tassaduq further informed that to tap the tourist inflow from the adjoining States of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal, major tourist attraction projects including Water Sports Complex are being developed at Manasbal, Basohli and Pull Doda in the first instance, while facilities are being created as a part of Border Tourism at Keran-Teetwal-Chakan-da-Bagh-Nowshera-Salamabad (Uri)-Karnah and Rawlakot.
He said that department is also focussing on promoting Adventure Tourism in the state by way of setting up of base camps, paragliding and water sports facilities at Nunkun, Kargil, Patnitop, Wullar, Naranag and Dhara Harwan.
Steps are also being taken to develop the unexplored areas of the state having huge Tourism potentials like Bungus valley, Lolab Valley, Tosa Maidan, Thajwas, Gurez and Tulail valley, Sinthan Top, area of Mughal road and others.
The Minister informed the House that to increase the tourist influx, the Department of Tourism has also sponsored International Tourism Events at London and Dubai besides, participated in various Travel Marts held at Kolkata, Mumbai, Amritsar, Chennai, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Surat, New Delhi, Lukhnow, and Pune.
He said the emphasis is being laid on encouraging foreign tourist flow and the short-distance market has been generating tourist to the State in general and to Kashmir Division in particular.
Religious Tourism is a major component of tourism activities in the state, focused attention is being given to developing all pilgrim places, he said.
“A major chunk of the domestic traffic consists of pilgrim tourists, keeping this factor in view, centre/state government is giving maximum thrust for development of pilgrim tourism”, the Minister said.
He said that to restore the confidence of the tourism players in the state, the department had invited leading tour operators across the country with a majority of participation from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. After their visit to the state and enjoying the experiences they had in Kashmir, these operators are now selling tour packages to the people, he added.
Further, the Minister said that to dispel the negative perception and restore the confidence of the intending tourist, the department is inclined to embark upon a force full campaign under which, it has come up with videos giving a message to the people to visit the state to experience its beauty and hospitality.
“The video clip ‘Kashmir the warmth place on earth’ has become a social media sensation these days and has successfully spread the message across the globe inviting the tourists to J&K and feel its warmth”, he said.
Regarding initiatives taken by the department to further boost tourism, he said that winter festival at Gulmarg is being organized every year in the month of January while, Golf Championship at Royal springs, Srinagar, Pahalgam & Jammu Tawi Golf Course has also been organized.
He said that steps have also been taken for promotion and publicity of the innumerable tourist spots and development of matching tourist infrastructure in order to attract and facilitate the tourists from across the country and worldwide.
To boost rural tourism and economy, the Minister said that series of events comprising local festivals, melas have been held across Jammu Province showcasing the local traditions and culture.
Giving details of tourist arrivals in the state, the Minister informed that during 2017, 1227764 (including foreign & domestic) tourists visited Kashmir, 922800 to Jammu and 230662 to Ladakh region.
He further informed that 259581 pilgrim tourists visited Kashmir to pay obeisance at Shri Amarnathji and 8170880 visited Vaishno Devi Ji shrine.
Later the House passed the Grants of Rs 55746.19 lakh for Tourism department with voice-vote.