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Premier Destination

May 7, 2024
a wooden flower boat on dal lake
Photo by KIRTAN CREATIVE on Pexels.com

Last year, Jammu and Kashmir welcomed around 2.02 crore visitors. Out of these, over 50,000 foreign tourists visited the union territory. Now, after a hiatus of four decades, the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India recently organised a stakeholders’ meeting in Srinagar. This event brought together 76 leading hoteliers from across India to showcase Kashmir’s tourism potential. The objective of the stakeholders’ meeting aimed to create a platform for fruitful discussions on investment opportunities, infrastructure enhancement, and strategic collaborations to promote Kashmir as a premium tourist destination. With Kashmir’s tourism tally witnessing an upward trajectory, the conclave served as a clarion call for larger hotel chains to invest in the region. Girish Oberoi, President of Hotel Association North India, expressed optimism about the prospects of attracting bigger investments, echoing sentiments of jubilation at the progress recorded by Jammu and Kashmir. Director of Tourism Kashmir, Raja Yaqoob, emphasized the need for further promotion of Kashmir as an attractive tourist destination, emphasizing its rich heritage, culture and culinary offerings. The conclave not only aimed at promoting tourism but also envisioned hosting a tourism development summit and an Ambassadors’ meet to boost tourism opportunities further. Throughout the event, stakeholders engaged in discussions, presentations and interactive sessions focusing on critical aspects such as infrastructure development, safety measures, marketing campaigns and community engagement. Strategies and recommendations were debated to address obstacles and maximize Kashmir’s tourism potential. However, during the meeting, the hoteliers requested the representatives of India’s hotel industry to advocate for slashing GST rates from 18% to 12% and in some cases from 12% to 5% to make travel and hotel stays more affordable for tourists. They also urged the J&K administration to ensure ease of doing business for the tourism sector during peak seasons, noting that as businessmen, their role is to drive investment, create employment and boost economic growth. Besides regular tourist inflow, Jammu and Kashmir is now opening to MICE tourism and other niche areas like heritage tourism. As Srinagar made it to the coveted list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Crafts and Folk Arts Category for the year 2021, the city is now bound to get niche tourists. The foreign tourists who come to India spend an average of $1700, while international travellers spend an average of $2500 in America and around $5000 in Australia. Kashmir valley too has a lot to offer to high-spending tourists. At the same time infrastructure at tourist spots has to be world class. Good infrastructure does not just mean good roads, but it means having quality restaurants, cafes and washrooms all over the Valley. Even at present, there are people who can bring high-end foreign tourists to old Srinagar city. However, lack of basic facilities in old Srinagar city like absence of public washrooms and good cafes and restaurants remain a big deterrent. While various initiatives to enhance heritage tourism already exist, their effectiveness hinges on their execution on the ground.

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