A hot air balloon being launched by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Secretary Syed Abid Rasheed Shah (Unseen) ahead of the G20 event, at Zabarwan Park, in Srinagar on Friday.
A hot air balloon being launched by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Secretary Syed Abid Rasheed Shah (Unseen) ahead of the G20 event, at Zabarwan Park, in Srinagar on Friday. ANI

‘G20 meeting set to herald all-round development in Jammu and Kashmir’

Srinagar: Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, is all set to host a working group meeting of tourism delegates from the G20 nations in 10-days time.

The summit is set to usher in a new positive phase in J&K.

The J&K citizens are upbeat and are extending full support to the J&K administration to make the programme a grand success, believing that the event was going to be historical in showcasing J&K’s potential as a tourism destination, not just for India, but also for the entire world.

It’s for the first time in the past 70 years that J&K would be hosting an international event like G20, and the occasion offers J&K a chance to rise to the occasion of exhibiting its market prospects, and ecotourism ventures.

“G20 Summit in Kashmir is set to boost tourism, providing a platform for the region to showcase its beauty to the world. It is a proud moment for every Kashmiri and a significant milestone for the tourism sector,” said Mukhtar Ahmad, a hotelier in Srinagar.

“Entire Valley is excited for the grand G20 event. This is the first time such a grand venue is happening in Kashmir. Earlier, no such event has taken place in this paradise. Our handicrafts and tourism destinations will be highlighted on the global platform,” he said.

Kashmir, popularly known as the paradise on earth, is surrounded by the ranges of the Himalayas. It is also famous for its hospitality. The people of Jammu and Kashmir, including students, are widely participating in various events in the run-up to the main meet.

An official said that the people had understood that Kashmir was gearing up to host an important summit that would transform J&K into a tourist centre of global importance.

“People of Kashmir want development at a fast pace. It is due to the people’s will that peace is prevailing in the length and breadth of J&K. It is an exciting prospect that our youth is eagerly anticipating the speech of PM Modi. People here in Kashmir believe this event will be a milestone in the history of the region and will pave the way for lasting peace and prosperity,” he said.

He said that there are no shutdowns being witnessed in Jammu and Kashmir against the visits of foreign dignitaries or any important persons.

“Srinagar has always held a special place in my heart, I’ve been closely following developments across the UT. You won’t believe, I, as a citizen, was delighted to hear the news last year that our Srinagar City will be hosting a G20 Conference,” said Zubair Ahmad, a local resident of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. Adding that G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Srinagar will be a significant occasion that will highlight the region’s potential as a tourism destination.

“The authorities have been successful in giving a makeover to the valley. Kashmir is transforming. And it’s heartening to see the international community recognizing the potential of our J&K and the efforts of the government to develop it,” he said.

Official sources said that the J&K administration was expecting to host over a 100 non-ministerial members representing the G20 nations.

“It’s a tourism stakeholders’ meeting and will give a boost to J&K’s tourism prospects too,” a senior official said.

Dignitaries from 20 different countries will attend the meeting and discuss tourism, unemployment, and socioeconomic development in different regions. The three-day second Tourism Working Group Global (TWG) meeting, under India’s G20 presidency, is scheduled to begin in Srinagar from May 22 to 24.

Elegant arrangements have been made beforehand to make this event special and memorable. In many places, walls are being painted brilliantly with colorful designs and colors to showcase our culture during the G20 journey. Streets, roads, and parks are revamped and designed to openly welcome special guests.

In Srinagar, preparations are in their final stages. A security plan has been worked out for the event, with multi-tier security arrangements and traffic diversions, officials said. The main venue, Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC), situated on the banks of the Dal Lake, is getting a Rs 7.5-crore makeover, which includes upgrading the digital infrastructure and refurbishing the exteriors and interiors.

In addition to glossy G20 logos installed at multiple places, the visitors will be greeted by rows of lampposts illuminated in the green, white and orange of the national flag.

The J&K administration is planning to take delegates, scheduled to stay in Kashmir for four days, on sightseeing trips to Gulmarg, Baramulla, and the Dachigam National Park, known for the Kashmir stag.

Official sources also said that elaborate security arrangements have been put in place to ensure the smooth passage of the event. “Administration is of the belief that G20 is a great opportunity to showcase the tourism potential of J&K at the global platform, so elaborate security arrangements have been put in place to ensure smooth passage of the event,” the official said.

He said that everything was on the right track and there would be no curbs anywhere while educational institutions and the markets will remain open.

Tourism is the backbone of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy and the maximum share of J&K’s GDP comes from tourism, with this tourism players are hopeful that the summit would provide further opportunities for growth to the sector. Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kashmir (CCIK) President Tariq Ghani Bedaba said that they were hopeful that it would provide opportunities for growth to the tourism sector here.

“G20 tourism meeting in Srinagar is the best thing happening in Kashmir. It will send a strong message that Kashmir is a safe tourist destination and people should visit the picturesque place to enjoy its natural beauty and hospitality of locals,” he said.

Like CCIK chief, Ali Muhammad too is hopeful that the G20 meeting would prove helpful in showcasing Jammu and Kashmir’s potential as a tourism destination

He said Kashmir would witness an increase in footfall of foreign tourists.

“This meeting will ensure foreign tourists visit Kashmir in large numbers as used to be the case before the 1990s,” he said. The upcoming G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Srinagar would be important for showcasing J&K’s potential as a tourism destination, not just for India, but also for the entire world.

The diplomats and other officials are said to have prepared a comprehensive plan to use this conclave for boosting tourism in J&K.

An official aware of the preparations for the conclave said, “While Kashmir is already popular as a tourist hotspot for the whole country, the government is working on a robust and effective plan under ‘tourism diplomacy’ to increase tourist influx from abroad to J&K. Furthermore, the idea is to generate more employment opportunities for the youth.” Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on May 4 had described G20 summits as a matter of pride for the country and impressed upon the officials to make concerted efforts to ensure the successful conduct of one of the meetings in Srinagar.

“G20 is a matter of pride for the country. We should make concerted efforts to ensure the successful conduct of the G20 meeting in Srinagar,” LG Sinha said.

He asked the departments to contribute enthusiastically to make the historic occasion a memorable one.

India assumed the Presidency of the powerful grouping G20 from Indonesia on December 1 and is hosting about 200 meetings in 32 different sectors in multiple locations across the country.

The third G20 tourism working group meeting would be held in Srinagar between May 22 to May 24.

The G20 or Group of 20 is an intergovernmental forum of the world’s major developed and developing economies.

It comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US, and the European Union (EU).

This year Rs 447 crore has been allocated to the tourism sector to develop J&K as a modern and smart tourist destination.

LG Sinha said that under the ‘Tourism Mission’ initiative, 75 new destinations, 75 Sufi and religious sites, 75 new cultural, and heritage sites, and 75 new tracks are being developed in J&K to open up new economic avenues for fulfilling the aspirations of the people.

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