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Wednesday, February 25, 2009
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Gulmarg to Host in’tl Skiing Event from March 1
National Snow Rafting to be part of Week-Long Gala
Skiers from Down Under and Canada to participate

Jammu February 24 – Minister for Tourism and Culture Mr. Nawang Rogzin Jora today said Gulmarg will be put on the international tourism circuit by organizing a week-long winter sports carnival beginning March 1. He said that a four-day international skiing championship will be held at the world-famous resort from March 1, followed by a three-day national snow rafting from March 6. Both the events would be sponsored by ESSAR Group.

Mr. Jora said that the Chief Minister, Mr. Omar Abdullah will inaugurate the event which will have skiers from Australia and New Zealand from Down Under as well as Canada. For the rafting event, athletes from 13 states from across the country will participate.

The Minister gave this information while addressing a crowded press conference at the Banquet Hall, TRC, here this afternoon. Secretary, Tourism, Mrs. Tanveer Jehan, MD, JKTDC, Mr. Rafiq Qadri, Director, Tourism, Kashmir, Mr. Farooq Ahmad Shah and Director, Tourism, Jammu, Mr. S. M. Sahni were also present on the occasion.

Mr. Jora said that Gulmarg is fully equipped to organize international events and every measure will be taken to make the coming event a success. “Even though we are satisfied with the facilities at Gulmarg, however, there is always scope for up-gradation. Government will explore possibilities of future investment in the health resort to improve the facilities there”, the Minister added. Elaborating on the activities in the next winter calendar of the Tourism Department, the Minister said that similar carnivals would be held at Patnitop in Jammu.

Mr. Jora said the event has been organized in anticipation of huge influx of tourists to the State following the direct Dubai-Srinagar international flights as well as increased domestic traffic to the summer capital in the coming weeks.
The Srinagar Airport went global on February 14, earlier this month, when the first flight from Dubai landed at the refurbished Srinagar International Airport. “In the last 1½ months, we have held several rounds of talks with tour travel operators at Mumbai and New Delhi as well as with various State Governments regarding the improvement in situation in Jammu and Kashmir. They have been very cooperative and we expect a huge inflow of visitors to the State this season”, Mr. Jora said, adding the Tourism Department is fully prepared to deal with the tourists that will arrive this season.

The Minister also spoke about the issue of travel advisory on J&K by several countries, adding the Government is strenuously taking up the issue. “Situation in Jammu and Kashmir has improved considerably and the voter turnout in the Assembly elections is an indicator to this. We are taking up the issue (of travel advisory) on priority.” Mr. Jora said, adding the matter would be sorted out soon.
Laying stress on promoting Ladakh region as a destination for domestic tourists, the Minister said that the region already receives a number of foreign visitors. “I have taken up the issue of additional New Delhi-Srinagar-Leh flights with the MoS Civil Aviation who has assured that three flights would be operated shortly”, he said, adding that more flights to Ladakh regions from Jammu are in the offing.

Speaking about the measures underway to promote tourism in Jammu region, Mr. Jora said an action plan has been formulated to tap the 72-lakh strong pilgrim-tourist potential which annually visit for paying obeisance at Mata Vaishno Devi shrine. “In Phase I, were are targeting 10 per cent of this to cater to the newly-created tourist development authorities at Bhaderwah, Surinsar-Mansar, Bani-Basohli and Rajouri-Poonch”, he explained.

Referring to the potential of Jammu region in adventure sports, the Minister said that rafting and golf will be promoted in a big way and necessary infrastructure put in place to woo tourists. He also threw light on up-gradation of existing facilities at various tourist spots, adding that 22 separate Tourism Development Authorities have been created with the sole motive of equipping each area with all modern facilities to facilitate the visitors.

Dwelling at length on the stiff competition from other health resorts across the country, especially from Kul-Manali, in Himachal Pradesh, Mr. Jora said efforts are on to provide upgraded facilities at all the tourist places across the State. He also referred to the steps being taken to encourage Bollywood industry to shoot their films at various exotic locales of the State. He referred to the Institute of Hotel Management in Srinagar which is providing training to chefs in Kashmir Valley to cater to the food requirements of the travellers. He also said that similar food craft centre is being established for similar training. “Under the aegis of Jammu University, an Institute of Hotel Management is being set up at a cost of Rs. 12 crore”, the Minister said.

Making a pointed reference to corridor tourism, the Minister made specific mention of the three tourism circuits of Bani-Basohli, Bhaderwah-Kisthwar-Simthan-Kokernag-Srinagar and Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch, he said the efforts would be made to prolong the duration of the tourists’ visit, which in the process would help develop local economy.

The Minister said that he has taken up the issue of enhancement of tourism budget with the Chief Minister as well as the Finance Minister so that maxium publicity is given to promote tourism in the State, adding that incentives would be extended to all the players involved in the industry. “We provide up to Rs. 30 lakh to hoteliers and up to Rs. 2 lakh for renovation of guest houses”, he said, adding that more such incentives would be given to the local people to boost their economy and provide fillip to their culture.

Highlighting the potential of heritage tourism, the Minister said the State possess rich cultural treasure that needs to traverse beyond State’s borders. “The State’s composite culture needs to be dovetailed with tourism so that a launching pad is provided to it for reaching out to global audience”, the Minister said, adding that heritage cottages at several new spots have been proposed to provide fillip to the sector. He also spoke at length about various initiatives being taken in collaboration with Cultural Academy including the ongoing eight-day J&K festival in the Union capital that commenced on Monday.

Source: Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Department of Information, Press Note, Feb. 24, 2009
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