Srinagar 26 September: With 2017 having recorded the lowest number of tourists who visited Jammu and Kashmir in the past six years, the number of tourists both domestic and international this year, so far, is said to be ‘encouraging’ by tourism officials.
Speaking specifically on Kashmir tourism with Kashmir News Bureau, Deputy Director, Tourism, Kashmir, Masarat Hashim (KAS) said, “So far, around 5 Lakh domestic tourists visited Kashmir this year, which is very encouraging for us. With regard to international tourists, we crossed 35000 mark for the first time after so many years. It is a good indictor. This number, which had gone down because of the circumstances in the Valley, is expected to increase in the years to come. Otherwise, the average influx of foreign tourists used to be around 27000 to 28000 a year”.
However, the Deputy Director added that ‘a lot still needs to be done and the tourist footfall has to be increased’.
According to the figures given in the Economic Survey 2017 report by the Jammu and Kashmir Government, the arrivals of tourists comprising Mata Vaishno Devi Ji and Amarnath Ji pilgrims and domestic and international tourists show a sharp decrease from 2012 till October 2017.
“The problem is at national level some media houses run negative campaigns against Kashmir, which has effected tourism industry to a larger extent . They show this place as if it is a war zone. This scares people from other states. On the contrary, the ground reality is even women travel and enjoy here unaccompanied without facing any problem. Families and other tourists also come. Even Yatra this year concluded peacefully,” said Masarat.
The negative perception created by these media houses is said to allow other tourist destinations to flourish at the cost of Kashmir.
“We are countering this perception positively and aggressively. We go to every state and show them positive stories and the reality of Kashmir. We also invite influencers, media houses and bloggers. Recently, a golf tournament was organised here. The golfers stayed and saw things here. When they went back to their respective states, they took a positive message with them. They, obviously, felt things aren’t as bad as they get to see through media,” Masarat Hashim told Kashmir News Bureau.
On the products of tourism and the focus areas of his department, Hashim said, “Besides leisure tourism, we are focused on adventure tourism to cater those tourists, young or old, who believe in ‘thrill’. Cycling in wild or in areas which are less inhabited is also being encouraged. Similarly, we are also focussing on MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) tourism. We invite larger corporates to hold their meetings and conferences to avail our infrastructure and facilities. We have SKICC and Pahalgam Club with world class facilities for such purposes. Our future strategy will also focus on Health Tourism, given the environment and pleasant climate in Kashmir”.
Kashmir News Bureau also spoke to Ufair Ajaz Kitab, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, Kashmir Motors who was also associated with tourism. Of several things he spoke about the ways to increase the tourist footfall in Kashmir was the package cost offered to the tourists.
“We have to match package cost with tourist destinations in other states and abroad, where people go in replacement of Kashmir in case circumstances here are not good. It also needs to be looked into if our packages are more expensive than the international destinations. We have seen, at times, Kashmir package is equivalent to Malaysia, Thailand and Bali. We have to check the package cost and make it attractive,” Ufair said
Ufair also said that India’s middle class population has rapidly increased who go for outing and spend a lot. “Instead of them spending money elsewhere, we should make our packages attractive cost wise so that they choose Kashmir,” he added. (KNB)