J&K will soon find place among top 50 destinations globally: Manoj Sinha
Sinha was addressing in Srinagar a tourism working group meeting of the G20 grouping of the world’s largest economies
Lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha on Tuesday said Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) will soon find its place among the top 50 destinations globally while calling tourism in the region a reflection of India’s multi-religious and multi-cultural ethos.
“...it will be on the travel bucket list of global travellers,” said Sinha in his address in Srinagar to a tourism working group meeting of the G20 grouping of the world’s largest economies.
The meeting is one of the biggest international events being held in J&K since the nullification of Article 370, which stripped the region of its semi-autonomous status in August 2019. It is being seen as a reiteration on the global stage of the region being India’s integral part.
Sinha said tourism cannot grow in isolation. “...tourism needs good infrastructure, sound policies, and effective and responsive administration.” He added only peace and happiness can bring warmth to hospitality.
He referred to the region’s majestic peaks, crystal-clear lakes, and serene green landscape and added J&K is more than a tourism destination. Sinha said record 18 million tourists visited J&K last year and the tourism sector contributed 7% to its GDP.
Sinha said the government has identified 300 new destinations to promote green tourism, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), youth and women entrepreneurs and involve local communities to support sustainable tourism.
He said the tourism sector has been accorded the status of industry. Sinha also referred to fiscal incentives being offered to it as per the region’s Industrial Policy. “We are receiving massive investment proposals from the industries in the hospitality sector.”
Sinha spoke about over 300 movies that were filmed in the region last year. “...such enthusiasm is bringing about a qualitative change in the lives of people. Our aim is to make the countryside and popular destinations more sustainable and preserve the beauty of fascinating heritage sites.”
Sinha, who was scheduled to host a high tea for G20 delegates, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development schemes have empowered the masses and effective administration has isolated the terror ecosystem, which thrived with the support from across the border. “Now even foreign investments are also coming into J&K.” He said there have been green shoots of better times people have anxiously looking for.
Sinha said the grassroots democracy has been strengthened in J&K and new industries are coming up. “...rapid agricultural growth is making our villages prosperous; new institutions have been opened up in higher education, and youths are being trained for industry 4.0 technologies.”
He said infrastructure development is progressing rapidly. Sinha added their emphasis on technology is transforming J&K into a digital society. He said the region’s ranking on the parameters of sustainable development goals (SDGs) has gone up over the last four years. “...entire society, especially the young generation, is scripting a bright future for themselves and the nation.”
China skipped the working group meeting. Delegates and officials from G20 members, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the UK, the US, and the European Union, attended the inaugural events on the banks of Dal Lake.
Officials from embassies in New Delhi instead of representatives from the capitals represented some members of the grouping such as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
India, which assumed the forum’s presidency in December, organised G20-related events in J&K and Arunachal Pradesh to showcase normalcy and development in these areas and to negate territorial claims by other countries. Pakistan has objected to the holding of such meetings in Kashmir. It was one of the reasons behind China’s decision to boycott the event in Srinagar. China also stayed away from a G20 event in Arunachal Pradesh. Beijing claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet.
The draft for a national strategy on film tourism was unveiled at a session on the sidelines of the meeting on Monday. There was also a side event on ecotourism, and a panel discussion focused on green tourism, digitalisation, skills, MSMEs, and destination management.
These priorities are building blocks for accelerating the transition of the tourism sector and achieving the targets under the 2030 SDGs.
On Monday afternoon, some of the foreign guests took a ride on a boat on the Dal Lake and visited a handicrafts exhibition. A trip to the ski resort of Gulmarg for delegates scheduled for Tuesday was cancelled because of security concerns.
Srinagar has been decked up in the G20 colours for the meeting. The road from Srinagar Airport to the venue of the meeting has been spruced up with walls covered with murals and paintings. Local markets were cleaned up and even security bunkers were given a new look in the run-up to the meeting.
Multi-tier security arrangements have been made for the international event. Marine commandoes and National Security Guard personnel carried out security drills ahead of the meeting around its venue. River and lake domination was done to ensure water bodies around the venue of the meeting are safe. Central Reserve Police Force personnel also conducted mock drills at Dal Lake since Friday.