Promote Kashmir On World Tourism Map: J-K Govt to Foreign Tour Operators

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Srinagar – In a bid to project Kashmir as a peaceful tourist destination, leading to revocation of negative travel advisories on travel to the Valley, the Jammu and Kashmir government Tuesday hosted a delegation of foreign tour operators, urging them to promote Kashmir across the world.

A delegation of foreign tour operators from different countries arrived in Srinagar on three day visit. The “Familiarization trip of foreign operators to Kashmir Valley”, organised by the department of the tourism.

Foreign operators were given a grand welcome at Nehru Park and in their honour one day – Shikara Festival 2012 was inaugurated. Tour operators from China, United Kingdom, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia were the part of the delegation. Delegation was ferried in Shikaras to the SKICC where they had interaction with the local tour operators.

Interacting with the delegation here, minister for Tourism and Culture Nawang Rigzin Jora appealed the foreign tour operators, to promote Kashmir as a peaceful and beautiful destination on the world tourism map and help in persuading various countries to lift their adverse travel advisories. The delegation, comprising of more than 30 delegates, is on an exploratory visit of the valley.

Jora said the aim of hosting such a delegation is to let them see for themselves the peaceful situation in the valley and persuade the tourists to visit Kashmir.

“They will move around, explore places, see for themselves that the situation is peaceful and when they go back they would persuade people that it is safe to visit Kashmir,” Jora told reporters.

The minister said the situation in Kashmir has improved considerably and expressed hope that many countries will follow Germany to lift their respective travel advisories. Germany has modified its adverse travel advisory to Kashmir last year.

“If Britain lifts the advisory, then every Commonwealth nation will. New Zealand, Australia and Canada, all will follow,” he said.

Commissioner-Secretary Tourism Atal Dullo said Kashmir is a 360-degree and all season destination and appealed to the operators to hard-sell it as an important and peaceful place.

Many delegates expressed happiness over the improvement in the overall situation and vowed to promote Kashmir in their countries vigorously.

“It is incredible to be here. I am enjoying my stay. People are very warm and caring here. We are not used to such a care in the UK,” a tour operator from the UK said.

A Singaporean tour operator labelled Kashmir as the “best place in Asia”.

The delegates interacted with their counterparts here and assured them that they will do their best to promote tourism in Kashmir.

“The idea behind inviting foreign tour operators and holding the Shikara Festival is to attract maximum number of tourists. It’s important that these tour operators come to know about our culture and heritage. They will act as brand ambassadors for Kashmir in their respective states,” director Tourism (Kashmir), Talat Parvez said.

Tour operators were overwhelmed by the hospitability offered and praised the mesmerizing the beauty of Kashmir. “It’s a place you must visit before you die”, said one of the tour operators from Singapore, Alex.

He also said that government needs to create lot of awareness to promote Kashmir in every nook and corner of the world. “I hardly knew anything about Kashmir except that valley being a dangerous place. Now my perception has changed and I will try my level best to promote Kashmir in Singapore”.

However, he said the government needs to push and promote the Kashmir on the same lines as is done for places like Varansi or in promoting Taj Mahal.

Another tour operator from China, Gillian Jin said, “I feel lucky that I got opportunity to visit Kashmir, and in the process I learned that Kashmir has lot of tourism potential. When I will go back, I will ensure that people know about Kashmir and at the same travel to Paradise on Earth”, she said.

Local operators also thanked tourism department for inviting foreign delegates to Kashmir, and at the same time asked their counterparts to act as “brand ambassadors” to promote Kashmir as safest place for tourism related activities.

Shikara-wallas thanked department of tourism for initiating such festival. “Our livelihood is dependent on the tourists. By inviting foreigners will certainly boost the tourist related activities. Festivals of such kind should be held on regular basis”, said the president of All Shikara Workers Union, Ghulam Ahmad Koloo.

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