G20 tourism working group meeting

Holding such a big international event in Kashmir attracted lot of attention
The cavalcade of G20 members accompanied by J&K security personnel is photographed on their way to SKICC in Srinagar, on 23 May 2023. [Representational Image]
The cavalcade of G20 members accompanied by J&K security personnel is photographed on their way to SKICC in Srinagar, on 23 May 2023. [Representational Image]Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Basically on tourism, the G20 working group meeting has gained extraordinary importance since such a big international event is taking place in Kashmir.

The meeting is being watched keenly at the local, national and international levels. The successful conduct of the event can send a strong message not only here but nationally and internationally also.

After it was announced that the meeting will take place in Srinagar from May 22 to 24, extensive preparations by the government began for the smooth, peaceful and successful event.

The outcome of the preparations is very much evident now with fool proof security arrangements on the ground and the way several parts of Srinagar city have been given a new look and decorated beautifully to welcome the foreign delegates. All other related arrangements too have been effectively made.

A day before the start of the event, Lieutenant Governor (LG) Manoj Sinha described the meeting a historic opportunity for 13 million citizens of Jammu and Kashmir to showcase priceless culture, heritage, tourism and warm hospitality.

He urged them for their active support and contribution in the successful conduct of the  event. The LG also expressed gratitude to  Prime Minister Narendra Modi for providing the historic opportunity and honour to J&K to host the meeting.

He stated that the  G20 members represent around 85 percent of the global GDP, over 75 percent of the global trade, and more than 60 percent of the world population. "Such gathering will provide huge boost to the shared vision of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam globally and accelerate socio-economic development of Jammu Kashmir," the Lieutenant Governor said.

Even as the working group meeting is tourism specific only, leaders of most political parties here have welcomed the event in Srinagar and described it as a step in right direction. Some of them have tweeted, while some others commented while talking to media.

The event has particularly generated excitement among the people associated with tourism and trade. They expect positive results for the tourism in Jammu and Kashmir.

The meeting is taking place at a time when tourism is booming here with record number of 1.88 crore tourists having visited Jammu and Kashmir last year and two crore visitors expected by the end of this year. Three hundred new tourist destinations are also coming up. 

The  tourism stakeholders want arrival of foreign tourists in large number. According to them this is possible if the foreign countries lift their travel advisories. Several countries had advised their citizens against visiting Kashmir in early 1990s since the situation was bad at that time.

However, since then the advisories were not lifted by most countries. Subsequently,   the arrival of foreign tourists has drastically come down. While the groups of visitors from Malaysia, Indonesia and a few other countries do keep on coming here now but their number is not that big.

Arrival of tourists from European and other countries can surely make a big difference. According to local business leaders the G20 meeting can pave way for lifting of the travel advisories.

The meeting of G20 working group on tourism is the biggest international event in Srinagar more particularly after August 5, 2019 when Article 370 was abrogated. Earlier, the foreign diplomats of New Delhi based  high commissions and  embassies would visit Kashmir separately to meet cross section of people, political leaders and government officials.

The visits started around mid 1990s. Some of the diplomats were very keen for restoration of political process in J&K as assembly elections were not being held because of the disturbed situation at that time.

Later, when the polls were held, the foreign diplomates would try to persuade those not participating in elections to take part and prove their representative character. Some time  after the abrogation of Article 370, several European diplomats did visit Kashmir in groups.

Giving details at a press conference about the  current G20 working group meeting, Secretary Ministry of Tourism  Arvind Singh said that a side event on "Film Tourism for Economic Growth and Cultural Preservation" will be organised on May 22 and 23, focusing on strategies to promote film tourism in J&K. The event will witness the participation of G20 member countries, invited countries, international organisations, and industry stakeholders.

In past Kashmir used to be a favourite destination for film shooting for Bollywood industry. Even foreign film crews would also land here sometimes.

But as the situation deteriorated in1990s, the Bollywood shifted to Switzerland and other locations in Europe. During the last few years, some Mumbai based film units have come here for shooting but the number is not that big.

A push is needed to persuade others to come here and shoot their movies. It is to be seen to what extent the foreign film crews get motivated to shoot here after the meeting of G20 working group here.

Efforts must continue at various levels to promote tourism and related sectors for an economically strong Jammu and Kashmir.

Author is senior editor, Greater Kashmir

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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