Rs 250 cr being spent on tourism industry in J and K: Azad

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Srinagar, Jan 11: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today said Rs 250 crore were being spent to promote tourism industry in the state, which had suffered a severe set back during the turmoil years.

''We consider tourism a biggest employment generating industry, so we will leave no stone unturned to promote it,'' Mr Azad said in an interview with Doordarshan news unit here. He said the government was spending Rs 250 crore to construct infrastructure through development authorities at 22 different tourist destinations in Kashmir valley, Ladakh and Jammu region.

He said the money would be spend to construct tourist huts, Tourist Reception Centres (TRCs) and other infrastructure at these places. When any new place was identified as tourist destination, businessmen hesitate to invest there, he said adding so initial investment from the government was necessary to attract others.

Mr Azad said in the past only few resorts were available for the tourists--domestic, foreign and locals. ''But now we are in the process of developing other places too which are more attractive,'' he added.

The Chief Minister said the government had identified 50 villages which would be declared as ''tourist villages'' in the state.

Most of the domestic and foreign tourists wanted to know about the rich culture, food and other things of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, he said adding the tourist village will provide them (tourists) a chance to see all this.

He said tourism was being considered biggest employment generating industry world over.

''As union tourism minister I have visited more than 50 countries where the local governments consider tourism as biggest industry for employment,'' Mr Azad informed.

He said tourism suffered a big jolt during the turmoil years and now it is again back on track.

''We have unemployment in the state and tourism industry would help us to overcome this problem as it will provide jobs to different sections of the society,'' he added.

Mr Azad said he had directed the organisors of winter national games being held at Gulmarg in the first week of next month, to start preparations for this grand event.

''I was a bit worried after there was no snowfall in December in the valley as we have invited people from all over the country for the event,'' he said and thanked to God for the heavy snowfall now.

Mr Azad said the Gulmarg slopes now had more than five feet snow and by February it will be more than eight feet, sufficient for holding such a grand event.

UNI

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