The Directorate of Tourism, Srinagar, today celebrated International Mountain Day in which scores of adventure lovers, mountaineers and a large number of nature lovers participated. The theme for this year's event was "Restoring Mountain Ecosystems" aiming at raising awareness about relevance of mountain ecosystems.
Secretary, Tourism & Culture, Dr. Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, was the chief guest on the occasion. Director Tourism Kashmir, Raja Yaqoob, GM Small Industries Development Bank of India, Satyaki Rastogi, DGM SIDBI, Mamta Kumari, officers of Tourism Department, members from tourism fraternity and other officers were present on the occasion.
Speaking on the occasion, Secretary said that JK tourism is in itself a brand world over and we have to maintain its distinctiveness through hard work and coordinated efforts. He stressed on active participation and collaboration of various stakeholders of tourism industry while highlighting their pivotal role in shaping the industry and driving its growth.
Dr. Abid said that tourism in Kashmir has flourished tremendously with the valley recording a steep rise in number of visiting tourists from the whole country. He said that the number of tourists who have already visited JK this year in different segments like adventure, leisure, pilgrim has already crossed 20 million and this counting will grow further in this month owing to the winter tourism peak. He congratulated the department for its efforts in increasing the footfall of tourists.
Secretary said that in order to cater to the huge influx of tourists we need to diversify our tourism products and have to explore and develop virgin destinations and introduce new activities apart from the traditional ones so that the experiences of tourists are enhanced and they return back with good memories.
Assuring the stakeholders of all support, Dr Abid said that we will redouble our efforts to make sure that JK Tourism attains newer heights while calling for coordinated efforts from all stakeholders. To maintain the scenic beauty and ecology of the areas, Secretary said that trekkers need to show sense of responsibility and not leave any wastage while on trekking or travel on hill areas.
He highlighted that we are a very sensitive biodiversity hotspot and we should not do anything which harms or destroys the brand of Kashmir Tourism. He said that there is a need to sensitize the trekkers whether locals or foreign to respect our ecology and biodiversity so that our mountains remain free from any litter and the scenic beauty is maintained.
To further diversify the tourism product range of J&K, Dr. Abid said that new destinations are being developed in Jammu and Kashmir to boost tourism which would generate economic avenues for the people. We need equitable growth of tourism and for that economic gains and benefits need to be democratized, he added.
He called upon the younger generation to come forward and generate their livelihood through different segments of tourism. He said that 22 lakh people are being directly or indirectly benefited from the sector and the numbers are growing day by day.
On the occasion, the Tourism Department also launched two projects in collaboration with SIDBI. These included Homestay Entrepreneurship Training Program and 10 day P1 and P2 paragliding course at Bir Biling Himachal Pradesh.
On the sidelines of the event, the department had organized several activities like flagging off a cycle rally from TRC, distribution of mountain gear among the adventure lovers and a photo exhibition.