KASHMIR’S BEAUTY BEWITCHES FOREIGN TOUR OPERATORS
‘It Is A Place One Must See Before Death’
ARIF SHAFI WANI
Srinagar, Oct 2: Impressed by unmatched natural beauty of Kashmir, a group of foreign tour operators on familiarization tour of the Valley resolved to promote the “paradise on earth” as one of the best tourist destinations.
The tour operators have been invited by the Jammu and Kashmir government to dispel the notion about law and order situation and make on-the-spot assessment of tourist places in the Valley. Coinciding with the arrival of the foreign tour operators, the Tourism Department also kick-started the Shikara Festival in Dal Lake.
Amidst traditional Kashmiri songs and folk dance, the group of 31 FAM tour delegates from various countries including China, Thailand, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Spain, Belgium and United Kingdom were accorded a warm reception at Nehru Park in the famous Dal Lake.
“It is a beautiful place one must see before death,” said Brother Alex a tour operator of Singapore after enjoying a Shikara ride in the Lake.
“This is my first visit to Kashmir and I really feel being in paradise. I am amazed to see floating market and houseboats in Dal. I will motivate people of my country to visit Kashmir,” Alex said as he tested his dancing skills with a group of Kashmir folk dancers in sprawling lawns of the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC).
Alex minced no words in praising hospitality of the government and people of the Valley. “In Kashmir we for the first time felt really like delegates. You have given us so much honour and respect.
In sheer contrast to some media reports of a civil war in Kashmir we found situation peaceful. We resolve to promote this paradise on earth as one of the best tourist destinations,” he said.
He suggested the State Government to go for travel insurance of tourists. “Our government in Singapore protects its citizens and tourists from head to toe by insurance. You should also devise some insurance scheme to pave way for visit of more tourists,” he suggested.
Shikhsa Bisnath a tourist operator of South Africa said situation has considerably improved in Kashmir. Shiksha said during her first visit to the Valley in 2006, she was “intimidated to see heavy military presence.”
“Situation has considerably improved and we got to see less number of troopers on streets here. Much development of tourism infrastructure has taken place since my last visit in 2006. Dal lake has been raised to international standards. Owing to its natural springs and serene tourism spots we can promote a new concept Wellness Tourism in Kashmir which is in immense demand these days. Kashmir has all natural ingredients to become one of the preferred centers for meditation,” Bisnath said.
Jin Jia Ging a tour operator of China could not resist dancing to the tunes of traditional folk dancers of Kashmir popularly known as Bhands.
“The music is so sweet that it touched my heart,” Ging said as photographers and news channel crews jostled to capture her glimpse with Kashmiri folk dancers.
Earlier, the Minister for Tourism Nawang Rigzin Jora while welcoming the guests, asked them to help the State Government to promote tourism in the State.
“Tourism forms backbone of our State’s economy and livelihood of majority of people depends on it. Situation in Kashmir is peaceful. I want to say with full confidence that Kashmir is as safe as any other place in the world. We invited you to assess the situation in the Valley and help us give fillip to tourism here,” Jora said.
Commissioner Secretary Tourism Atal Duloo said the aim of the FAM tour is to promote tourism sector of the State.
“We believe that visit of the tour operators will pave way for heavy tourism influx to the Valley. We will leave no stone unturned to market the State as a complete tourist destination,” he said.
Director Tourism Kashmir, Talat Pervez said it is a privilege to host the foreign tourist operators. “When you return to your homeland you should dispel wrong notions about Kashmir and present its real picture. We hope that your visit will prove beneficial for our tourism sector,” Pervez said.
Former Director General of Tourism, Muhammad Saleem Beg traced the history of Kashmir in respect of various civilizations. “Kashmir has a recorded history of over two thousand years. Its cultural layers are strong which are yet to be explored.” Beg said.
Beg said there is heavy influence of Buddhism on Kashmir’s arts and architecture, and this needs to be properly highlighted for attracting tourists. “Kashmir has immense scope for heritage and cultural tourism and we believe you can help us in this endeavor,” he added.
On the occasion, the foreign tour operators had an interaction with tourism stakeholders of Kashmir including prominent tour operator Nazir Bakshi, president Travel Agents Association of Kashmir Rauf Tramboo, Nazir Mir of All Kashmir Travel Operators Association, Abdul Hamid Wangnoo secretary Houseboat Owners Association, and GM Dug and Nasir Shah of Tourism Alliance.
They impressed upon the visiting tour operators to reflect true picture of Kashmir and help in removing travel advisories in Kashmir by some countries.
Later the visitors visited the Dachigam National Park and Mughal Gardens. During their three day visit they are scheduled to visit various tourist places including famous ski-resort Gulmarg besides Verinag and Aharbal.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 2 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 2 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 3 Oct 2012 00:00:00 IST
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