Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said the government intends to promote Gulmarg in Kashmir as the Davos of India where country’s top business and policymakers can hold their annual summits to frame new policies and strategies.
“Gulmarg is a world famous tourist destination. We have state-of-the-art cable car, high-end hotels, skiing and heli-skiing activities and great road connectivity. I wish we host Indian Davos at Gulmarg,” said the CM at an interaction function with country’s top tour and travel operators in Mumbai on Thursday.
Switzerland-based Word Economic Forum (WEF), a non-profit foundation, holds annual meeting at Davos, a mountain resort in the Alps region, in January, which is attended by world’s top business leaders, politicians and policy makers.
In 2015, the Davos meeting was attended by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, power minister Piyush Goyal, economic adviser Arvind Subramanian and over 100 top corporate leaders.
Gulmarg is about 50-km from Srinagar, which has top-end hotels and other facilities. It is carpeted by the snow in January, like Davos.
Drawing a parallel between Davos in Switzerland, which holds annual summits of World Economic Forum (WEF), the Mufti said like Davos, Gulmarg has all the required facilities to host the country’s business leaders and policymakers for similar economic summit.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is trying to bring about political and economic change in the disturbed state.
Jammu and Kashmir is one of the three revenue deficit states in the country, dependent on central assistance to meet its expenses. Finance minister Haseeb Drabu said the government wants to boost economic activity which itself can bring about the economic change. Projecting Gulmarg as Davos is apparently a part of the economic agenda, as brining in top corporates could infuse much needed funds in the state economy.
The Mufti said the tourism sector had drifted away and with support from premier tour operators of the country, it will be paddled back.
“The state needs to be projected on a much bigger canvas as it offers diversity in culture, rich heritage, range of climate from the sub-tropical terrains of Jammu to the cold deserts of Ladakh and the stunning locales of Kashmir,” he said.
Terming the tour operators as the lifeline of J-K tourism, the chief minister also sought support of all behind-the-scene players to restore it to its original glory of being country's top tourist destination.
He said the tourism sector had drifted away and with able support from premier tour operators of the country, it will be paddled back to the shores of its brilliant past.
"J&K, right through the sixties to late eighties, remained country's premier film shooting and nature tourism destination," he added.
He said besides the huge influx of pilgrim tourists to Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine at Katra, steps have been taken to promote Jammu as an independent tourist destination.
The tourism in the valley was hit last year by floods and fear of another flood last month and subsequent media coverage has the potential to hit another tourism season this time. However, the Mufti told the tour operators that in this season they will definitely find a discernible change.
“We can have travel and trade conferences at Patnitop and Bhaderwah. Jammu has a rich cultural history, a piece of which I saw for myself a few days back when I visited Mubarak Mandi heritage complex,” he said and described the state as a bouquet of three distinct cultures that comes on one platter.
He said the state has more than 2,100 high altitude lakes, several unnamed and unclimbed peaks in the Karakoram range which can be highlighted to attract ardent mountaineers and climbers to the Himalayan state.
Meanwhile, bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan called on the Mufti and expressed his wish to shoot in the Valley again.
Recalling his childhood memories, the 49-year-old actor told Sayeed during the meeting that his grandmother was of the Kashmiri origin.
The superstar said he would love to shoot in Kashmir again as this way he will be able to relive the good moments of 2013 when he worked in Yash Chopra's last directorial venture "Jab Tak Hai Jaan", an official spokesman said.
The chief minister has been accompanied by deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh and finance minister Haseeb Drabu. (With agency inputs).