Identification of new destinations, new products and services to tourists remain my priority: Director Tourism Kashmir, Dr Fazl-ul-Haseeb Peer

Srinagar November 19 (KNS): Being tourism sector a key component in the economy of J&K, the Director Tourism, Dr. Fazl-ul-Haseeb while speaking to Kashmir News Service (KNS), said identification of news places to visit, new products and services for tourists to enhance and enrich their experience and more importantly the economic benefits of increased footfall to more areas will remain his core areas. Here is what he says:

KNS: You have assumed office recently. What will be your priorities? 

DT: In addition to what is already being pursued by the Department for further promoting the tourism sector, my core areas would be identifying new places to visit, new products and services for tourists to enhance and enrich their experiences and more importantly spreading the economic benefits of this increased footfall to more areas and more sections of population and society. We hope to maintain and improve the footfall numbers in collaboration with our stakeholders for the coming seasons and years.

KNS: Tourism has been confined to a few places here. Is there any scope of tourism in downtown areas which was once an epicenter of trade and tourism?

DT: Srinagar is the epicenter of tourism related activities and our focus too. We are giving a thrust to Heritage Tourism in the city, the city which has its own distinct past, literature and culture and we want to celebrate this glory. Recently we launched a Legacy Tour of the old city for the tourists besides renovation work at the Hari-Parbat Fort stands almost completed which would be a great attraction for tourists. We have a rich heritage, art & craft and literature in Srinagar and the Department intends to display that heritage on the tourist canvas of the country and abroad.

KNS: Govt. has recently identified more than 75 destinations in J&K. What was the aim behind?

DT: As you rightly said, tourism here was confined to a few locations only. So the UT administration took a major decision of identifying new destinations and tourist attractions across the UT. Of these 75 new destinations, 38 are in Kashmir and 37 in Jammu province. It has helped in enhancing the experiences of tourists and extending their stays.

The Department is working hard to popularize them among the travel fraternity and intending tourists. We have been holding festivals at all these destinations to promote them besides augmenting their infrastructural requirements to cope up with tourist footfall and results are visible on the ground. Gurez, one among these offbeat destinations, recently won a national award as an offbeat destination.

KNS: Govt. recently said 1.5 crore tourists visited J&K this year. With this how much revenue the department generated and how much employment opportunities were created?

DT: See the Department here or the Government for that matter are not promoting tourism to generate revenue for the Government but to create avenues of employment, livelihood and business for the stakeholders and local people here. Tourism is a vital component of the local economy and it has a multiplier effect. There is a transport sector, handicrafts, food and other allied areas dependent on the tourism sector. By succeeding in tourism, you are helping these sectors also to succeed.

KNS: Govt. recently rolled out home stays in picturesque destinations. How did people reciprocate to this initiative?

DT: The J&K Government, under the Ease of Doing Business, has notified guidelines for registering home stays. Much of the cumbersome documentation has been done away with and any applicant can now apply online. All he or she needs is to have own house in which he or she can earmark 1-4 rooms for tourists to stay with all local facilities and standards.

The idea has been to encourage local people to enter into the tourism business, become stakeholders with minimum investment and be partners in the growth of the sector and society. The response has been very encouraging from people in this regard.

KNS: Houseboats are a gem of Dal Lake. What welfare measures are reserved for them?

DT: Houseboats are our pride and glorious heritage and we shall be promoting it in the same spirit. Soon we are organizing a Houseboat festival, as we have been doing it for the last couple of years. The Department is making efforts to make the Houseboat owners their operations easy and hassle-free and a series of steps and decisions have been taken in this regard.

KNS: Tourism has a key role in our economy. Do you think it should be introduced in academics as well?

DT: See, post COVID-19, the dynamics of tourism trade have changed considerably at the world level. There are now new norms, new challenges and of course new opportunities and we have to be ready for that. Tourism is already part of the curriculum at college and university level in J&K and it would really contribute positively if academic exercises, researches, surveys etc are conducted on the subject.

KNS: What kind of schemes the tourism department is providing to unemployed youth.

DT: As I told you, the Government or Tourism Department is here to handhold people associated with tourism trade and not to generate revenues for itself. The Department besides regulating the tourism trade, promoting it outside is also doing the handholding coordination between various agencies for the stakeholders of this segment of the economy. Our officers and officials are there round the clock to guide them and encourage them to take up the business and carve out success stories for themselves and the UT. That is our real revenue generation.

KNS: Tourism department had organized awareness programs outside JK in the recent past to bring footfall of tourists here. How did it work and benefit? Do you think it needs to be continued in the future as well?

DT: It was the result of this coordinated marketing and promotional strategy that you have seen the highest tourist numbers this year. And we are starting this promotional campaign all across the country once again.(KNS)

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