Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today said tourist arrivals to the state this year have been below expectations and called upon the national media to change the negative perception which has plagued the state.
“Tourist arrivals this year have been below expectations. Tourism has to brace up for bigger challenges ahead. I seek cooperation from the national media in changing the negative perception which has plagued Kashmir for quite some time,” Sayeed said after the stone-laying ceremony to launch Hotel Nedou’s in a new avatar of ITC hotel here.
Welcoming the initiative taken by ITC Group to foray into the elite hospitality sector in the valley, Sayeed said high-end tourism would get a huge fillip if the state is able to attract big investment in the hospitality sector.
“In order to position Kashmir as an ideal tourist destination matching international standards, there is a need for augmentation of infrastructure in hospitality sector to attract high-end tourists,” he said.
The chief minister described Nedou’s as a heritage and asked the ITC to keep intact the heritage character of the hotel which, he said, can become its unique selling proposition.
“During British rule, Kashmir was promoted as an independent tourism destination, which culminated after independence. Unfortunately, during militancy, the sector suffered a huge setback, which adversely affected the economy of the state,” said.
Linking tourism to employment, the Chief Minister expressed hope that with the advent of peace, the tourism industry will be able to bounce back.
“With peace returning, the state will witness an infrastructure boom for which skilled human resource is of paramount importance. I urge the doctors, engineers and businessmen who left when the state fell on hard times to return and play their role in its overall development,” he said.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and other ministers and legislators were present on the occasion.