A team of officials from the Union tourism ministry, led by tourism minister Prahlad Patel, will be touring Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh next month to finalize the plans to boost tourism in the two newly-formed Union territories by November 1.
In an interview to PTI, Patel said that he had already sent two officials from the Union culture and tourism ministry on deputation to Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, who would act as an “advance team” before he arrived there in the first week of September to take stock of the situation.
“I will go to Leh first and then to Jammu and Kashmir to visit the identified tourist spots and conduct a review. We need to provide skill training to guides, get them acquainted with different languages. We are planning to get this done over the next two months,” he said on Monday (August 27).
The Union minister of state (independent charge) for tourism added that he would lead the teams if he didn’t accompany the prime minister on his upcoming trip to Russia. He said that two recent decisions of the government – on e-visas and on opening up 137 peaks, 15 of which were in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, for foreign tourists – would boost the tourist footfall in the region, which in turn would help in the growth of both revenue-generation and employment opportunities.
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Patel listed four key elements of his plan to prepare the two Union territories for tourism – upgrading manpower, which would include training guides, build awareness on the bed-and-breakfast scheme, asking people to open up their homes at places where there is a shortage of hotels, give them basic training to run them and also promote adventure sports in a noteable manner.
“What we need to do is change perceptions like we managed to do in the north-east. We need to tell everyone that there are no security issues in the region and it will be safe for them to travel there.
“While we have the cultural heritage to get tourists to visit these places, what we need to do is build amenities around them. We have to identify areas and build infrastructure,” he said.
Patel further said that, while in Ladakh, the focus in the Kashmir Valley would be on tourists from countries practising Buddhism with guides being taught specific languages. The ministry was also planning to revive the Sufi tradition at places like Kishtwar.
On August 5, the government abrogated the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into two Union territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.