With a staggering 11-lakh tourists visiting Kashmir last year, the Jammu and Kashmir government aims to welcome 20 lakh tourists this year.
An optimistic tourism director Farooq Shah says, "We have worked hard to promote our tourism industry throughout the world. Now it is time to reap the rewards. We are hopeful to receive around 20 lakh tourists this year."
The government is upbeat about tourist potential this year, in view of a peaceful summer-2011 that followed three consecutive years of turmoil in the state. With signs of violence ebbing in the state, the government has embarked on a major overhaul of the tourism industry to attract more tourists.
"We have to showcase Kashmir as a destination that attracts both high-end overseas travellers and the domestic visitors, while consistently projecting an impeccable image of the state," says tourism minister Nasir Aslam Wani.
He adds, "Besides the Jammu and Srinagar airports, the surface entry points at Lakhanpur and Lower Munda will provide a 'quick response mechanism,' facility to ensure that tourists are not made to wait for long hours."
The administration is roping in services of free porters for shifting tourists' luggage. "Two more buses will operate for luggage transit from the first airport drop gate to the terminal," said the minister.
Tourism director Shah says, "The tourism department has already kicked off a campaign under the title 'Preparation for Tourist Season 2012'. The campaign was required to bring professionalism among stakeholders. If we deal with tourists professionally, they will become our promoters."
The tourism minister has also asked the valley-based tour and travel operators to come under one roof to put in a joint mechanism to ensure better results for promotion of tourism. The tourism department is also planning to hold festivals every month.
Several departments, which take care of roads, electricity and water supply, have been instructed to work on betterment of roads, regular water and power supply, in preparation for the up-coming tourist season.