Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me immense pleasure to welcome you all to the Union Territory of Jammu Kashmir for the 3rd tourism working group meeting under the Presidency of India. I hope you are enjoying the warm hospitality and pristine beauty of Srinagar.
Dear friends, since eternity, Jammu Kashmir is known as crown jewel of India and today I would like to say that it is a matter of great pride for 13 million citizens of the Union Territory to host this G20 meeting of tourism working group that is deliberating on global architecture for sustainable tourism.
Friends, Jammu Kashmir have always been a centre of wisdom, knowledge, inclusive culture and breathtaking landscape that is divine to travelers. Famous poet Amir Khusro while describing the natural beauty of Jammu Kashmir in 13th Century had said and I quote- गर फ़िरदौस बर-रू-ए-ज़मीं अस्त, हमीं अस्त ओ, हमीं अस्त ओ, हमीं अस्त- If there is a paradise on earth, It is this, it is this, it is this. So, it is not surprising that in the modern days, one of the oldest travel guide book publisher ‘Lonely Planet’ chose to call Jammu Kashmir as Switzerland of India.
Friends, for almost 30 years, this land of peaceful co-existence of almost all religious sects had to suffer state sponsored terrorism by our neighbouring country. However, Hon'ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji through development schemes that empowers masses and Union Territory's effective administration, isolated the terror eco-system which thrived with the support from across the border. Jammu Kashmir is witnessing a new era that has opened limitless possibilities of growth and peace. Now even foreign investments are also coming into Jammu and Kashmir, green shoots of better times people are anxiously looking up to.
Friends, I will run you through broad contours of our deep dive initiatives to demonstrate India's resolve that Jammu Kashmir should also benefit from the virtues of democracy like the rest of the states and Union Territory. Equally pertinent is that tourism cannot grow in isolation. The economics of it is fine, that tourism needs good infrastructure, sound policies and effective and responsive administration. No less fundamental to me is the fact that only peace and happiness of people can bring warmth in the hospitality, we Indians eternally enjoy. And, I would like to mention here that tourism in Jammu Kashmir is also a reflection of multi-religious and multi-cultural ethos of India.
Today, Jammu Kashmir stands among the developed regions of India on some measurable milestones, and we are committed for people's prosperity both economically and socially. Hon'ble Prime Minister Modi Ji has completely eliminated injustice, exploitation and discrimination which several sections of society faced for seven long decades owing to circumstances that evolved mostly because of orchestration from abroad. Friends, we are ensuring social equality and equal economic opportunity to all citizens, which is also enabling them to contribute to the nation building.
Grass root democracy has been strengthened; new industries are coming up, rapid agricultural growth is making our villages prosperous, new institutions have been opened up in higher education, youths are being trained for Industry 4.0 technologies, infrastructure development is progressing rapidly and our emphasis on technology is transforming Jammu Kashmir into a digital society. In the past 4 years, the ranking of Jammu Kashmir on the various parameters of sustainable development goals have gone up, thanks to visionary leadership of Hon'ble Prime Minister Modi Ji.
And, the world can see that entire society, especially, the young generation is scripting a bright future for themselves and the nation. The speed and scale of rapid development in Jammu Kashmir are awe-inspiring. Our speed to execute infrastructure projects has gone up almost 10 times. I will give you a small example. Only 9229 projects were completed in the year 2018, however, in the last financial year, we have completed 92,560 projects. This achievement is a testimony to our resolve of peace and prosperity and making all our citizens equal partners in this journey of growth.
Friends, the Covid pandemic made the world realize the hard way the virtues of traveller’s well-being and also the values of a shared vision One earth, One family and One future. The paradigm shift towards sustainable living, inclusive and sustainable development is also an opportunity to provide new impetus to sustainable tourism. I am truly delighted that under India’s G20 Presidency, the G20 tourism working group is focusing on five inter- connected priority areas. Green tourism, digitalization, skills, tourism MSMEs and destination management will provide a roadmap for tourism as a tool for achieving sustainable development goals.
Friends, it's encouraging for us to share that Jammu and Kashmir is already working on a few of the priority areas identified by the G20 Tourism Working Group like on Green Tourism, Skills, Tourism MSMEs and Digitalization. In the post-pandemic era these five key building blocks will promote environmental awareness, protect the ecology and improve the economy and livelihoods of communities and inclusive growth of stakeholders. During the previous tourism working group meetings, the world has seen that the Honble Prime Minister Modi Ji's vision of LiFE- Lifestyle for the environment- is at the centre of transformation of tourism sector.
As I said earlier, the majestic peaks, crystal-clear lakes and serene green landscape of Jammu Kashmir is more than a tourism destination. It is a poetry. It's a land of realisation. It is an energy field vibrating with the ageless Indian cultural values. Under the guidance of Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi Ji, we have ensured that the transition in tourism sector in the backdrop of pandemic focuses on needs of travellers, interests of industry stakeholders, creates employment opportunities and promote environmental awareness.
Numbers are adding to the narrative.
Last year, a record number of 18 million tourists visited Jammu Kashmir And, the last year tourism sector made 7% contribution to Jammu Kashmir GDP. We have identified 300 new destinations to promote green tourism, small & medium enterprises, youth and women entrepreneurs and involve local communities to support the sustainable tourism. This Himalayan region is blessed to have 55% green and forest cover and last year alone we have planted 16 million trees to give a renewed push to green tourism and to provide new getaways and stunning eco-destinations for the domestic and international travellers. Tourism sector in Jammu Kashmir has been accorded the status of Industry and all fiscal incentives as per our Industrial Policy and I can tell you, we are receiving massive investment proposals from the industries in hospitality sector. Friends, Jammu Kashmir used to be the favourite location for bollywood film industry till late 1980s. After a long pause of almost 4-decades, we have revived the relationship with bollywood and launched a film policy in 2021 to attract more investment into film sector and to make Jammu Kashmir most popular film shooting destination. Last year alone, more than 300 movies were filmed in the region and such enthusiasm is bringing about a qualitative change in the lives of people.
For the travelers, who want to explore the charming and adorable villages, we have come up with home stay facilities. It is being promoted and marketed by harnessing the power of digital tools and it also ensures that incredible ecology is protected and promoted. We are grateful to Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi Ji for his consistent effort to develop Jammu Kashmir as one of the most sought after tourist attraction in the world. Places like Gulmarg, Pahlgam, Sonmarg, Bangus Valley, Srinagar, Jammu, Kishtwar, Sanasar, Gurez, Patnitop are now on global tourism map and offering stunning scenery, skiing, snowboarding, trekking, beautiful and iconic mountain ranges, spiritual experiences and rich cultural canvas. Several destinations in Jammu Kashmir are living example of connect between the ancient and the modern, inclusive culture, history, music and traditional cuisine that can truly provide elevated travel experiences to the people. We are developing the country’s first book village on the banks of Wular lake and many hiking trails for tourists who loves tranquility of nature. Our aim is to make the countryside and popular destinations more sustainable and preserve the beauty of fascinating heritage sites. I am confident, under the leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Jammu Kashmir will soon find its place in the top 50 destinations in the world and it will be on the travel bucket list of global travellers.
Through this empowered gathering, I invite the world to Jammu Kashmir. Give us a chance to host you and, for you, to know us. Come, enjoy and rejuvenate yourself.
With these words, I once gain welcome respected delegates of G20 nations. I wish you all a fruitful, enlightened discussion and positive outcomes that will help us building a global architecture for sustainable growth in tourism sector.
I hope you will also enjoy our warm hospitality and breathtaking views of Dal lake.