Omar Abdullah joins rafters at International Rafting Competition

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Sonamarg (J-K), Aug 6 (ANI): Exploring his adventure streak, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah here joined rafters during the Second Kashmir Cup International Rafting Championship.

The three-day championship, with seven foreign teams besides contenders from all over the country, is taking place in Sindh River at Sonamarg hill resort, 85 kilometres away from Srinagar.

Declaring the championship open, Abdullah said that all the foreign participants and tourists are the valley's ambassadors in their respective countries. It was infact encouraging to see so many tourists coming all the way to Kashmir to try their hand at adventure sports.

"Today, there is a sea change in the Jammu and Kashmir of 1990 and the Jammu and Kashmir of 2009 and that sea change is evident by this galaxy of foreign participants in this tournament we have. It gives us much of encouragement to see so many of you take this long journey to come all the way here. It also gives us enormous encouragement about the facilities we have to offer to the rest of the world," said Abdullah.

Rafters from countries like the Czech Republic, Canada, New Zealand, Holland and Slovakia are all participating. All of them were excited looking at the interesting and challenging rapids in the river.

"There are very interesting rapids and some of them are very challenging. I think there is a great potential here. Our experience has been great," said Rebecca, a rafter from Canada.

The rafters participating in the tournament believe that Kashmir can become a hotter tourist destination than Europe, as it had all the potential.

"In Europe, it is a more popular sport that is the biggest difference. But I think that here in Kashmir there are better conditions than in Europe. It will be in the same position as in Europe," said Botha, a tourist from Czechoslovakia.

Making full efforts to revive tourism in the state, officials are hopeful that the number of tourists will hit the mark of 700,000 this year. Last year, around 500,000 tourists visited the valley. (ANI)

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