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May 14, 2013 at 05:17am IST

Peace imperative for growth of tourism in Kashmir, says CM Omar Abdullah

Sringar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday stressed that peace and tranquility hold the key to groom and grow the tourism industry in the state for which over Rs 383 crores have been sanctioned during the last four years by his government.

"People from all the three regions of the state are equal stakeholders in the tourism industry. Balanced approach has to be taken to rope in tourists from within the country and abroad," he said.

Chairing the tourism advisory committee meeting in Srinagar, he said that the tourist market for Kashmir in southeast Asia, Middle East, Gulf countries and Germany need to be harnessed in full besides working for attracting tourists from other foreign countries.

Peace imperative for growth of tourism in Kashmir: Omar

More than 6.21 lakh pilgrims visited the Amarnath Cave shrine and Ladakh received more than 1.79 lakh visitors in 2012.

"The government is making all endeavours to help holistic development of tourism by encouraging adventure, sports, pilgrim and conventional tourism in the state and help creation of up to the mark infrastructure with the aim to generate economic activities and expand job market for youth," he said, calling on private players in this industry have complement government efforts "so that the stupendous goals are achieved".

A presentation during the meeting stated that over 13 lakh visitors visited Kashmir Valley during 2012 while the number of pilgrims visiting the Mata Vaishno Devi was over 103 lakhs.

Besides, more than 6.21 lakh pilgrims visited the Amarnath Cave shrine and Ladakh received more than 1.79 lakh visitors in 2012.

The meeting also noted that 66 tourist development projects have been completed in the last four years, while work on the mega tourism projects like the Trans-Himalayan Cultural Centre at Leh - estimated to cost Rs.22.43 crore, Nagaar-Nagar-Watlab project in Kashmir (over Rs.38 crore) and conservation and restoration of Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex is on.

Three more mega projects of Sufi Circuit in Kashmir, "Spiritual Circuit" in Jammu and Buddhist Circuit for Leh, each involving Rs 50 crore have been prepared and submitted to the central government.

The government has also extended concession on hotel tariff tax by one year besides reducing VAT on sale of cooked food items from 13.5 to 5 per cent. Various sports, cultural, adventure and other events were held within the state to promote tourism while as participation in road shows, rallies and marts was made within and outside the country to showcase Jammu and Kashmir tourism, the meeting was told.

For the capacity building programme, about 10,000 youth have been trained under the 'Hunar-se-Rozgar' programme during the last four years and out of these, about 5,000 have already been absorbed in the tourism industry. During the next four years, more than 25,000 youth will be trained under this programme.