Travel stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir are keen to reverse the sagging tourism fortunes of the state, which has been hit by the rise in insurgency for the last two years and corresponding negative media coverage.
As part of its endeavour to spread the message that the valley remains safe for tourism, the state tourism department is presently hosting the 64th annual convention of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), a major trade event being held in the state after a gap of 31 years.
“We expect that post hosting of this convention, which has witnessed participation from agents (across) India, tourist arrivals will increase in the state multifold and dispel the myth that the destination is unsafe for tourists,” said Sunil Kumar, president of TAAI. “It is also a great opportunity for leading travel agents to get familiar with tourism products of the state.”
According to the government’s economic survey report, 7.3 million tourists visited the state in 2017, down from 8.4 million in 2016 and 9.2 million in 2015.
“The international tourist arrivals in Kashmir at present are minimal though there is an increase in demand from markets like Middle East, South-east Asia and Bangladesh,” said Zahoor Qari, chairman, Jammu & Kashmir chapter, TAAI. “However, the travel advisories issued by the US and Europe is the main challenge to attract tourist arrivals from these key source inbound markets.”
Film tourism has been identified as a key area that could bolster the travel sector in the Kashmir Valley, with chief minister Mehbooba Mufti having visited several Indian states last year along with industry stakeholders to hold meetings with tour operators, agents and movie stars.
“We plan to work closely with film production houses to attract more movie shootings in the state. We are looking at ways to incentivise production houses to promote the valley for film shots. It is part of our strategy to showcase tourist destinations here,” said Tasaduq Mufti, tourism minister, Jammu & Kashmir.
The state tourism department is also holding talks with Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India to organise a roadshow later this year to showcase Kashmir as a golf destination for Taiwanese.
Said Rajan Sehgal, president, India Golf Tourism Association: “Kashmir boasts of world-class golf courses. If international golfing events are organised in the state, it will result in attracting many international golfers.”
According to Mehmood Shah, tourism director of Jammu & Kashmir, the state tourism department continues to participate in domestic as well as international tourism marts and roadshows, in addition to organising events and festivals like Kargil Marathon, Tosa Maidan Festival and Gurez Festival to attract tourists.