Kashmir has been known for centuries for the sheer beauty of its landscape and the myriad attractions that it offers to tourists, making it truly a paradise on earth. For the last couple of decades the idyllic haven has been plagued by a devastating insurgency. But whenever there have been periods of peace, tourism has bounced back strongly, both due to the inherent tourism treasures of the destination, as well as the untiring efforts of not only the tourism dispensation, but the entire state government machinery.
This was on display again as Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti stormed the business, financial and entertainment capital of Mumbai, with a heavy weight delegation from the state comprising the top tourism officials, led by the indefatigable Secretary Tourism, Farooq Ahmad Shah, other officials from the tourism and horticulture departments, PR officials and a jumbo delegation of over 50 ever-enthusiastic and eternally optimistic travel trade members of the state.
The highlights of the trip were a media briefing, followed by a travel trade interaction. The media session was a sellout, with over 150 attendees demonstrating the great interest which Jammu and Kashmir always invokes in the media and the public.
The CM in her own inimitable and passionate style made an impassioned plea to the media for forgetting politics for once and for also reporting the good news about Jammu and Kashmir, besides the usual and often exaggerated negative reports. She said that the strongest rebuff to terrorism will be tourism and implored the media and through them the tourists to visit Jammu and Kashmir this year.
The travel trade interaction was to recognise the strong support which the travel industry from Maharashtra and Gujarat have always extended to Jammu and Kashmir, to reassure them about the security situation and the firm resolve of the state tourism department and the state government machinery to take their feedback and suggestions and address their concerns. Over 200 travel industry members from the western region attended this session, including travel operators not only from Mumbai, but also from Pune, Nashik, Ahmedabad, Surat etc.
Another highlight of the twin events was the launch of the trailer of the feature film ‘Sargoshiyan’, directed by popular TV star, Imran Khan and shot extensively in Kashmir, capturing its exquisite and captivating beauty. This ensured a substantial turnout from Bollywood including the stars of the film like Alok Nath, Farida Jalal, Shahbaz Khan among others.
On a more serious business note, Farooq Ahmad Shah gave some interesting and heartening information like the impending launch of the JK Tourism Policy within the next six months, with a roadmap till 2030. He disclosed that the state would be investing Rs 2,400 crores over the next four years on tourism infrastructure development, with a further Rs 30,000 crores expected from the private sector. To this end, the CM also had one to one meetings with business barons like Mukesh Ambani, Subhash Chandra of Zee Group, Anand Mahindra, besides being one of the high-profile panelists at the India Today Conclave in the city in the same period.
At the conclusion, it can be said that once again the tourism business, beauty of J&K and Bollywood came together to successfully beat the bullets and the bombs.