To add to grandeur of one of valley’s best-known tourist destinations, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Thursday inaugurated Pahalgam Club in a majestic new avatar to cater to the needs of high-spending travellers visiting the state. He had given a six-month deadline to the Tourism Department for completion of the long-delayed project. The Chief Minister was accompanied by Begum Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Minister for Horticulture, Hajj & Auqaf, A. R. Veeri, Minister for Public Works, Floriculture, Gardens & Parks, Syed Altaf Bukhari and Minister for Transport, A. G. Kohli, at a gala function, which attracted country’s top names in media, film and business fraternity. Immediately after inaugurating the Club-cum-International Convention Centre, the Chief Minister went around the premises and saw various facilities including auditorium, spa, swimming pool, bowling alley, gymnasium and luxury suites. “Pahalgam will continue to mesmerize travellers and top filmmakers by its captivating charm and scenic beauty by becoming an all-season destination in near future,” he promised. Stressing upon diversifying into uncharted territory of travel industry, Mufti Sayeed favoured sending right vibes across tourism sector by adopting best practices in doing business and creating environment for better public-private interface. “I have already issued directions for setting up a Single Window Mechanism headed by Secretary Tourism to speed up clearance of tourism-related proposals,” the Chief Minister emphasised. Describing peace as a prerequisite for promotion of tourism, the Chief Minister stressed upon improving the holding capacity in valley’s health resorts for high-end travellers, by providing access to benchmark facilities vis-a-vis accommodation, roads, communication and hospitality. “Our high-end intake capacity is fairly low right now. We cannot think of increasing top-end footfall unless we provide visitors niche facilities that match global standards,” he said, while referring to the huge ripple effect tourism industry can have on other segments like handicraft and cuisine. Mufti Sayeed singled out tourism sector’s potential in emerging as a fulcrum around which the state’s economy can rebound in a big way. “Travel industry remains J&K’s biggest strength which offers plethora of opportunities in ever-expanding job market and handicraft sector,” he added. The Chief Minister stressed also upon augmenting room capacity for middle-rung tourists which, he said, contributes significantly to the tourism-related economy of the state. He, however, emphasized upon hoteliers and tour / travel operators to improve facilities to boost arrivals in peak tourist season. Unveiling his plan to promote Pahalgam as an ideal winter destination, on the pattern of Gulmarg, the Chief Minister said the possibilities of introducing cable car will be explored and other elements like ice, roller skating and skiing will be launched to diversify tourism-related activities in Pahalgam,” he said. The Chief Minister appreciated the Tourism Department for completing the Pahalgam Club within the timeline given by him and hoped that this multi-faceted asset will be managed and maintained on a self-sustaining basis. Mufti Sayeed welcomed the guests who had come to Pahalgam for inauguration of the Club, which included noted filmmaker, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Dr. U. Koul, Rakesh Mathur, Editor-in-Chief of Greater Kashmir, Fayaz Ahmad Kaloo, renowned columnists, Neerja Chaudhary and Saba Naqvi and tourism magnate Rajan Jaitley. “I hope your presence will be able to remove the negative perception that exists about visiting J&K,” he said. Speaking on the occasion, A. R. Veeri praised the Chief Minister’s efforts in promoting tourism sector so that it is able to regain its past pride. He said the government will take all measures to make J&K as country’s top tourist destination. Minister for R&B, in his remarks, congratulated the Tourism Department for creating an ideal high-end tourism facility in Pahalgam. He said on the instructions of the Chief Minister, all important roads in and out of the resort, including Pahalgam-Aru and Circular Roads, have been macadamised on top priority. Built in 1960, the historic Club was a centre of tourist attraction before it was gutted in a fire in 2005. After chasing tail for several years, Chief Minister ordered fast-tracking its reconstruction so that an upmarket asset laced with all modern facilities is set up to boost state’s travel industry. Constructed at a cost of Rs. 24 crore, the refurbished Pahalgam Club is a blend of traditional and modern architecture. It has 21 luxury suites, a state-of-the-art auditorium, conference and banquet halls, bowling alley, eating joints, gymnasium, swimming pool and an exclusive showroom for famed Kashmir Handicraft. The auditorium can double up as multiplex depending upon the needs of the occasion. Also present on the occasion were Deputy Chairman, Legislative Council, Jahangir Mir, Minister of State for PHE, I&FC and Forest, Abdul Majeed Padder, Legislators, A. R. Rather, Noor Mohammad, Farooq Andrabi, Altaf Kaloo and Sofi Mohammad Yousuf, Chief Secretary, B. R. Sharma, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Asgar Samoon, Director General, Information and PR, Zaffar Ahmad, Secretary Tourism, Farooq A. Shah, Secretary to Chief Minister, M. H. Malik, PDP South Coordinator, Mufti Sajad, Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, Muneer-ul-Islam and Chief Executive Officer, PDA, Riyaz Ahmad.
2015 Kashmir Despatch