J and K hopeful of wooing 10 lakh tourists this year

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Bangalore, Jan 16 (PTI): Though last year''s stone peltingincidents in Kashmir had impacted tourism, the Jammu andKashmir government hopes tourist inflow would touch the 10lakh mark this year, up from nearly 7.36 lakh in 2010.

Speaking during a roadshow to promote Jammu, Kashmir andLadakh regions as tourist destinations at a travel fair, J&KTourism Minister Nawang Rigzin said nearly 7.36 lakh touristsexcluding Amarnath yatris, visited Kashmir last year.

However tourist arrivals were abruptly interrupted mid-yearwith the wide media coverage on stone pelting incidents, whichcreated fear among the tourist population, he said.

"Tourists have now started coming back to Kashmir and wehope the figure will touch the million mark", he said.

Terming as not true the perception that Kashmir is notsafe, he said the sporadic incidents had occurred in placesthat are not the usual tourist destinations. "The usualtourist spots are safe. Last year 23,000 foreigners, mainlythose from South East Asia visited Kashmir."

"Tourism is the cutting edge of Jammu and Kashmir economy",he said while citing reasons to revive tourism in the region.

Thousands of people depend on tourism.

The government was trying to build infrastructure and otherfacilities to boost tourism. There were plans to promote thegolf circuit - including the Royal Springs Golf Course,Gulmargand Pahalgam golf courses-- to woo tourist and encouragetourist attractions like heliskiing, a winter sport.

New tourist destinations like Gurez, Loleb are also beingpromoted. There were plans to add more destinations onto thetourist map of the region, he said.

There were also plans to spread out tourists to variousareas to ensure a balanced dispersal of revenue generation.

He said authorities had assured film units of full securityand all facilities to complete shooting and also promoting aone-stop solution for film crew to facilitate shooting.

On the Sabarimala stampede in Kerala, he said those incharge of managing pilgrims visiting the shrine could perhapsstudy the practice followed to regulate devotees coming toVaishnodevi, "perhaps one of the most smoothly managed."

"Every aspect of yatra management has to be taken care of,your infrastructure has to be taken of, security has to betaken of, the way the yatra is conducted has to be taken of."

On revival of interest by film units in the region,he said"Bollywood has been coming back to Kashmir. Last year we hadthree units in Gulmar.These are not big budget ones, but smallones. Big directors and producers, they are still scared...

but the adventourous were coming".

On measures to promote film shooting, he said the biggestconcern was security, which was being provided. "A one stopsolution is being adopted to grant all required permissions toshoot. Whatever logistitic support is required is given."

He said there was keen interest in wooing tourists fromKarnataka. The IT sector had displayed interest in the region.

According to a hotel owner, an estimated 20000 IT employeeshad visited the region in the last three months. PTI JD APR

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