In an attempt to change the ‘negative perception’ and clear apprehensions of people in the domestic market about visiting Kashmir, the Department of Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir has started an outreach activities in various cities of India.
Speaking exclusively to T3 on the sideline of an event in New Delhi, Rigzin Samphel, Commissioner/Secretary to the Government, Tourism Department, Govt of J&K, said that the Department along with other stakeholders including representatives of tourism trade fraternity from all the three regions—Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh has decided to reach out to different Indian cities to send out the right message that Jammu & Kashmir is the most safest destination for tourists.
“We recently come back from Mumbai. We had a very good response from stakeholders there. Today, we are stressing on Leh and Kargil in New Delhi and tomorrow we will be in Ahmedabad and focus will be Kashmir and Jammu. The idea is clear the misinformation about entire regions for Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu. The situation in the entire state in terms of the prospect of tourism for the coming months is very good. There was a lull for the obvious reasons but now the number of bookings has increased suddenly. So, we are very hopeful that we will have a good season this time,” Samphel said.
There had been a lot of negative publicity about our region in the aftermath of February 14 attack, which has badly hit our tourism.
Apart from the promotion in the domestic market, the Department has also chalked out strategy to go to overseas markets. “We will be visiting Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand and few other European countries during the year. The number of foreign tourist visiting the valley was up by 45 per cent compared to the previous year for the calendar year 2017-18. These are data which normally does not go out to the public. We are conveying such information and try to enforce reality over perception to send the right information to tourists who wish to visit the state,” he added.
Replying to a question over having a permanent crisis management or PR Cell in the department, he said that the Department is working on these lines. “The entire region is very safe, especially for women travelers. We have a lot of women solo and group travelers. The valley for tourist is always been normal. We are hopeful that tourism will pick up,” he said.
He said that there is basically the problem of perception. “To kill this perception, we are going to all across the country. We are putting forward the right picture for the entire state including Kashmir and promoting three regions,” Samphel said.
He informed that the Department has recently been able to convince the Department of Finance to allocate Rs 2 crores for Project management Unit (PMU within the department. “Right now, the department is run by bureaucrats. But, we need to have professional skills and institutional memory to continue our work. Hence, we will have professionals and experts in tourism working with us very soon. The RFP for the PMU needs to be floated. I hope that we will have PMU in the department in 2019,” the Secretary said.
Talking about the steps taken on sustainable tourism front in the state, he said that the Department was able to finalise the guidelines for the entire state about a month ago. “Till now, the entire registration of hotels and travel agencies were done manually. In fact yesterday, we have launched our website and the entire operation has been now digitized. There are the ways we are trying to system to be put in place. The major SOPs in adventure guidelines is to ensure sustainability.