A 15-day festival showcasing food, culture and craft of Jammu and Kashmir got off to a colourful start at Dilli Haat with leaders from the tourism industry appealing to tourists to visit the state and enjoy the "unparallelled" hospitality of its people.
MoS Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir, Priya Sethi inaugurated the event that started last evening and will continue till December 30.
She said the state "came out strong after the five-month-long unrest thanks to the tourism industry" and extended a whole-hearted invitation to tourists and pilgrims to visit the Valley and help it "revive its economy".
Sethi said the government is keen on promoting border tourism in the state.
"We aim to send a message of peace and cultural harmony across the country through people visiting the frontiers. Several places on the border will be developed as tourism destinations along the lines of the Wagah border in Punjab.
"We want to project the International Border in J&K as the border of peace and bonhomie.The initiative has a huge potential," she said.
J&K's Secretary, Tourism and Floriculture, Farooq A Shah said the tourism sector can generate employment for 70 percent population of Jammu and Kashmir, which has flourishing horticulture and handicraft industries, and urged the tourism partners to lend priority to the state.
He said the purpose of the festival is to promote Jammu and Kashmir as a winter tourism destination.
The state has world-class golf and winter sports facilities "on par with that in the US" in Gulmarg and Pahalgam, he said, adding the state tourism department will organise a "snow festival" to promote winter sports from January 22.
"We are making efforts to attract diversified tourists… those who are interested in sports, heritage, pilgrimage, craft, cuisine and so on. So our focus is on tapping the massive tourism potential the state has.
"Jammu and Kashmir in itself the world. We assure the tourists that we will shower them with our unparallelled traditional hospitality," he said.
The state is focusing on promoting winter destinations like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg.
"We are here to promote winter destinations like Gulmarg Pahalgam and Sonamarg which are world famous destinations for hosting of winter related activities," he said.
Organized by J&K Tourism in collaboration with department of handicrafts, the event has seen participation from various functionaries including JKTDC, SKICC who are displaying their wares and showcasing their products for the visitors.
Among others, Secretary Tourism Farooq A Shah, MD Handloom Development Corporation Showkat Zargar, Deputy Director Publicity Kashmir Peerzada Zahoor, Deputy Director Jammu besides other officials were present on the occasion.
The prime attraction at the festival is the display of State's varied cuisines including Kashmiri Wazwaan, traditional food items from Ladakh and Jammu regions.
The festival will culminate on December 31, 2016.
Chairman Hoteliers Club Mushtaq Chaya and President Travel Agents Society of Kashmir Ibrahim Siah were also present on the inaugural day.
It was also informed that the department will organize sponsored road shows from January 13 to March 2, 2017 in collaboration with State's Travel Trade bodies to promote the tourism of the state.