‘Govt to organise winter games, carnivals to woo tourists’
Jammu: The number of tourists visiting Jammu and Kashmir has increased manifold during the last month, a senior official claimed on Tuesday while announcing a slew of measures to restore the confidence of those visiting the Union Territory.
Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Secretary Sarmad Hafiz said several activities will be organised across the UT including the national winter games at Gulmarg in February 2021 under the ‘Khelo India’ initiative and the Jammu cultural festival and ethnic Dogri food festival in the coming days.
“Confidence is returning among the tourists whose numbers are steadily increasing both in Kashmir and at the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu… we are expecting a good turnout of tourists in winters,” Hafiz told reporters here.
He said the number of tourists arriving in Kashmir by air was less than 100 for the last several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today, the arrivals have increased by more than 15 times than what it was a month ago. We are looking forward to having a lot of activities like the national winter games under Khelo India at Gulmarg in February,” he said without giving any figures to justify his claim.
Hafiz, who is also the secretary of culture, youth services and sports, said a festival at the famous Patnitop near Jammu is also on the cards besides the Jammu cultural festival and ethnic Dogri food festival that are likely to organised in a week or 10 days time.
“We are trying to link tourism with culture so that the people coming here can have a good local experience during their stay,” he said.
Hafiz claimed that the steps taken by the Jammu and Kashmir administration to revive tourism and other activities have not been taken by any other state or union territory.
He said the pandemic has brought the world to its knees and affected every sphere of life including tourism.
“COVID is a fact and it will stay unless there is a vaccine. We have to learn to live with it and follow all protocols… We have to give confidence to people to travel,” he said, adding that the administration has organsied webinars and roped in travel agents to woo more tourists.
Responding to a question on easing the screening process of tourists arriving in the UT including testing for COVID-19, he said there are certain things which are necessary for the safety of everyone.
“Everyday the situation is changing and we are hopeful of doing away with all restrictions once the situation improves and returns to normal,” he said, adding special directions have already been passed to ensure cooperation with tourists.
On the engagement of youth in sports activities, Hafiz said the youth services and sports department is organising skiing courses in Gulmarg for the youth of all the districts of Jammu region, which is happening for the first time.
“The first batch of 100 children, hailing from Kathua, Kishtwar and Doda districts of Jammu region, are presently undergoing skiing courses at Gulmarg. Such a course was earlier restricted to a few districts only, but this time we are covering all districts of Jammu region,” he said.
He said the department is also planning to start skiing activities at Patnitop this winter.