World Tourism Day: Minister for Tourism spells out futuristic strategy, favours private participation in Tourism developments
Katra, September 28 - Outlining the futuristic strategy to again regain the position of a global player in tourism sector, Minister for Tourism Mr. Nawang Rigzin Jora has favoured a greater participation of private sector in development and raising of infrastructure in hitherto potential regions of Jammu and Kashmir. The government, he said, must act as a facilitator in implementation of stratagem and in supervising the implementation of the innovative thoughts for fetching the economic resources for the development of these potential areas.
Elaborating further on the role of the private sector, while speaking at seminar on Tourism Potential in Jammu region organized by Tourism Department in collaboration with Hotel and Restaurant Association Katra, the minister said that sectors like provision of transport, construction of rest houses, eateries and even road network ought to be maintained and developed by them and the government must take on itself the role of monitoring these. “ For the last over 50 years the government has took on itself the burden to harness the tourism potential and to build it but now the onus ought to be shared as is the case in the developed countries”, he said adding that focus must be on developing the infrastructure in the tourism circuits of the state.
Through the mechanism of tourism authorities and tourist circuits, the government intends to tap fully the potential of serene locations in Jammu and Kashmir, the Minister said. The primary focus in this regard is harmonious public-private partnership. Jammu and Kashmir, being known the world over for its scenic splendor, is culmination of diverse geographical regions. While, the plurality of the state is not only reflected in the rich culture but also in the varied topography. This propels significant tangles to the tourist influx in the region too wherein the Jammu pilgrim tourism is the mainstay, Ladakh can boast of adventure tourism.
Comparing the influx of tourists in the neighbouring states which are far-ahead of Jammu and Kashmir and testifying these with the statistics, the Minister said innovative incorporations like the one coined by Haryana in inviting curiosity of the tourists on farm-Tourism needs special mention. Likewise, the smaller states of Himachal Pradesh and newly created Uttrakhand too have made strides in pilgrim tourism taking cue only from huge potential it has from the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine and Katra town in the state.
The Minister said that Katra in Jammu and Kashmir has emerged as a example for others to imbibe in promoting pilgrim tourism. However, this needs to be further streamlined by advancing greater facilities, and in this behalf he pointed that Katra now needs a state-of-the-art Tourist Information Centre.
Inviting opinion of experts of the industry and scholars, while speaking at a seminar in Katra on World Tourism Day last evening, the minister said that the dispersal of tourists to adjacent potential locations and prolonging their stay alone could help in developing the lesser known destinations of the regions, while earning economic rewards also.
On the advantage of the Katra, the base camp of Shri Mata vaishno Devi Shrine, the Minister said the 13 kms track to the shrine which is visited by over 70 lakhs pilgrims not only from the country but across the world provides a captive advertising platform for marketing the lesser known destinations of Jammu and Kashmir. Any innovative mechanism to apprise the visiting pilgrims during their trek to the holy shrine can surely have a surging effect and called upon the experts to contribute by advancing their suggestions. He said that the pilgrim tourism, especially in the Jammu and Ladakh regions, needs to be diversified by merging spiritual cleanzing with physical (health) spas also, citing the expounding strides coastal Kerala has made in this field.
Divulging further, on the other planned strategies to market lesser known destinations of the state, the Minister said that a National-level Motor Rally on the pattern of famous Himalyan Car rally is being organized shortly to give fillip to the areas of Basholi, Bani, Bhaderwah, Rajouri-Poonch. He said that Motor Rally would tread on Mughal Road also.
MLA Reasi Mr. Baldev Raj Sharma, who also spoke on the occasion complimented the Tourism Department for organizing thought provoking seminar on the subject dealing with various facets of tourism promotion in Jammu and Kashmir in general and Katra town in particular. He also dwelt on the multifold progress in the pilgrimage owing to the increased facilities provided by the Board authorities since its inception. The MLA stressed upon the Board authorities to further streamline their working for affording greater facilities to the pilgrims. This becomes necessitated in view of the ever surging rush of the pilgrimage to the Shrine. He also put forth the demands of tax exemption to the ponywallas and provision of safe drinking water facility enroute to the holy Shrine especially during the summers.
Additional Chief Executive Officer Dr. Mandeep Bhandari informed that there was increase of 12 lakhs of pilgrims to the holy shrine when compared to the corresponding period last year. He stressed on the coordinated efforts of all functionaries to afford comfort to the visiting pilgrims. He said that for decongesting the base camp of Katra of the heavy influx of tourists, the pilgrimage needs to be fanned out to adjoining potential areas. For this, the peripheral areas must be developed in right earnest by raising necessary infrastructure.