(L-R) Abhijit Patil of Raja Rani Travels, Kesari Patil of Kesari Tours, Mahmood A. Shah, Director of Tourism Kashmir, Sudhir Patil, President-Maharashtra Tour Organizers Association, Imran Khan-Bollywood & TV star and Prabhubhai Joshi of Heena Travels at a press meet in Mumbai last week.
Jammu and Kashmir Government is wooing tourists from Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra promising them peaceful and memorable holiday in the State, which saw five-month long unrest last year causing losses running into crores of rupees to the exchequer. The unrest badly affected the tourism sector, a key source of revenue for the State Government. However, snowfall in the upper reaches of Kashmir, including the popular skiing destination of Gulmarg, has come as a boon for winter sports and tourism-related activities in the Valley and authorities are making efforts to get vacationers back in the State.
"The recent snowfall has given a fresh impetus to tourism. We urge the people of Mumbai and Maharashtra to come and visit Kashmir. We assure the people of the State a very peaceful and memorable holiday in Kashmir," said Mahmood A Shah, Director of Tourism, Kashmir.
Addressing a press conference here, Shah added, "We are completely satisfied with the arrangements put in place by the local tour operators, houseboat owners and hoteliers of Kashmir to welcome tourists Our Tourism Department is also geared up with many activities such as winter snow festival in Gulmarg and Pahalgam followed by spring festivals in March/April."
He said in the last 10-12 years, tourism to Kashmir grew manifold with domestic travellers comprising nearly 85 per cent of the total arrivals. Infrastructure, both in the private and the public sectors, has also been upgraded.
Unfortunately, during the last summer, due to turmoil in the Valley, the tourism activity came to a standstill, causing a huge loss to the sector, Shah said.
However, the situation in the Valley has improved now, the senior official said. "Due to improvement in the situation, tourists are returning to the Vally though their number now is small. All tourism-related activities such as Gondola cable car and skiing in Gulmarg have started," Shah said.
J&K suffered losses to the tune of over Rs 16,000 crore during the five-month long unrest (from July 8 to November 30) in the Kashmir Valley due to complete halt of economic activity coupled with loss of property worth crores of rupees, according to the State's Economic Survey 2016 report.