Describing exotic resorts of J&K as future business centres for country’s corporate giants, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Tuesday identified MICE tourism as a window of opportunity for opening up new vistas in ever-expanding high-end travel market. He said on the request of elite tour operators, who organize annual conference retreats, the state will explore possibilities of starting helicopter services to tourist destinations like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Aharbal, Daksum, Bangus and Patnitop to kick-start convention tourism, with focus on winter. “We have holiday resorts with required infrastructure that can bring Corporate Houses and people with common business interests, together at one place,” he added. The Chief Minister, who also holds the charge of Tourism portfolio, said this while chairing a meeting here over breakfast with Arun Kandoo, Vice President, The Rail Journey, one of country’s leading event organizers in MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) Tourism. Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas, Director General, Information & PR, Zaffar Ahmad and Secretary Tourism, Farooq A. Shah, were also present in the meeting. Referring to the wide-ranging conference facilities available at Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Patnitop and the summer capital, Mufti Sayeed said to save travel time, the government will operationalise and incentivise chopper services to attract high-end tourists and business firms. “We have to brace up and project J&K as a premier winter destination through clubhouses and luxury resorts which provide facilities that compare with the best in the world,” he added. Referring to the several steps taken by the government to create par facilities for high-end travellers, the Chief Minister suggested dovetailing conference tourism with high-end sports like golfing and skiing, which are very popular summer and winter sporting activities in leading tourist destinations. “Gulmarg is an ideal ski resort, which is a very popular winter destination. Similarly, Pahalgam has by far the country’s most ideally-located golf course,” he said, while emphasising upon blending various aspects of travel industry to boost revenue generation. The Chief Minister also placed high priority on showcasing treasure trove of heritage assets, which has been successfully projected by some other states of the country. He specifically mentioned the historic Maharaja Palace in Gulmarg, being restored with expertise from INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage), so that it is projected as an upmarket destination. “People will love to stay there once the project is completed by Gulmarg Development Authority (GDA) by November-end,” he added. The state government is exploring to incorporate heritage tourism in the State Policy so that our heritage properties become self-sustaining and productive assets. A high-level Committee comprising the state government officers and Indian Heritage Hotels Association of India has been constituted to strategize a plan for projecting J&K as a top-end heritage destination. Urging corporate world to come over and explore the facilities available for hosting high-end conferences at state’s leading holiday resorts, the Chief Minister said the government is concurrently focusing on the allied hospitality sector to professionally market J&K as a high-end conference centre. “We need to pan out conferences to places like Gulmarg, Patnitop and Pahalgam, especially in winter,” the Chief Minister emphasised, while asking State Tourism Department to focus on hosting conferences this winter. The Chief Minister, in a review meeting at Gulmarg on Sunday last, had emphasised upon making plans for matching winter footfall of tourists with that of summers. HDFC Bank is organising its annual conference of 75 heads of branches within and outside the country in the summer capital. Also present in the meeting were Amitabh Chaudhary, MD, HDFC Bank and Akshay Aima, Group Head, HDFC Life.
2015 Kashmir Despatch