Union minister of state (MoS) for tourism minister Dr Mahesh Sharma on Sunday pledged to take Kashmir tourism to new heights saying new dispensation will “combat terrorism with tourism”.
“Jammu and Kashmir’s identity is its tourism. Both Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and state chief minister (Mufti Muhammad Sayeed) have realised this fact and pledged to take it to new heights,” said Sharma.
The Union minister was speaking at a tourism festival organised at Gulmarg, 55 km north of Srinagar. The festival comes in the wake of recent floods that threatened the tourism sector and the aim was to instill confidence.
The Union minister promised to allow international flights in Srinagar. “All issues related to the Srinagar airport will be addressed. The Centre will examine the technical and security-related issues and take a decision on starting additional flights to Srinagar, Jammu and Leh very shortly. The concerns of the ITC hotels too will be addressed in next three months,” said Sharma.
The Union tourism minister said the Central government is committed to provide all assistance to the development of tourism sector.
He announced three circuits for Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh divisions under the new Government of India scheme named Swadesh Darshan. Under this scheme, the Union Government will fund Srinagar-Chatti Padshahi-Hazratbal-Chrar-e-Sharief Spiritual Circuit, State-of-the-art Yoga Centre at Mantalai, Jammu and Leh Buddhist Spiritual Centre in Ladakh.
Present on the occasion, chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said, “His new government, in partnership with Centre, will become an entrepreneur in tourism development, which sector offers new vistas for economic growth and employment in the State.”
Describing J&K tourism as a perfect vehicle that only needs a good driver, the chief minister said, “The new government will put the state firmly on the pedestal of global benchmarks. The idea behind this conclave is to give an opportunity to all the participants to share their vision of how to promote, package and market J&K as a high-end tourist destination.”
He, however, expressed concern over the skyrocketing air fares. He urged the Union minister to consider operating additional flights on Delhi-Srinagar, Delhi-Jammu and Delhi-Leh circuits to counter costly air fares.
Referring to the PDP-BJP government, the chief minister said, “J&K is at the cusp of change and his new government will channelize the collective energies of the three distinct regions for building on peace dividends through a concerted development effort, particularly in the tourism sector.”
To promote upmarket tourism, the chief minister announced chopper sorties for high-end visitors to Bangus Valley, an eco-fragile but equally breathtaking destination.
The Union minister also assured the government on releasing Rs 127 crore package for restoring the properties damaged in September floods of 2014.
The Central government is also exploring possibility of starting at least one or two international flights from Srinagar International Airport.