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Airlines urged to lower fares to boost J&K tourism
Onkar Singh in New Delhi | June 25, 2003 00:21 IST
Ghulam Nabi Azad, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Congress committee, has demanded that domestic airlines should announce apex fares (usually these tickets are much cheaper than the full economy fare) for Kashmir and Leh sectors of the state to promote tourism in the state.
Speaking to rediff.com after a tour of the state with the standing committee on tourism comprising Members of Parliament, Azad said that all the members who visited the state feel that special schemes should be launched to encourage tourist traffic to the state.
"More then 300 MPs, 15 chief ministers of various Congress-ruled states, besides the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee have visited the state in the last two months. They have seen for themselves that terrorist violence has gone down because of the operations launched by the security forces," Azad said.
Azad said that he would take up the issue of announcing apex fares by the Jet Airways and Indian Airlines which operate on Delhi-Jammu-Delhi, Delhi-Srinagar-Delhi and Delhi-Leh-Delhi routes.
He said some Members of Parliament who visited Gulmarg with him last week were very happy to be there.
"When I took them to Kilonmarg, they were simply delighted to see the natural surroundings. They were overawed by the beauty of the place and insisted that they would spend the night at the height of 11,000 feet. But we could not arrange those many sleeping bags for them and hence they had to reluctantly spend the night at the hotel in Gulmarg," Azad told rediff.com.
He claimed that more then 50,000 visitors had visited the valley in last fortnight alone.
"When people saw chief ministers of 15 of Congress-ruled states spend three days in the Valley, a clear message when to the world: Kashmir is a safe destination and those who want to visit this breathtaking tourist centre should do so without any hesitation," he said.
Maya Singh, a Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha member, was also delighted to be a part of the delegation that visited Kashmir.
"It was a wonderful experience to visit Kashmir. Last time I visited the valley was in 1982. Frankly, when I was going there, we were apprehensive; we thought we might have some problems. But when I went to Srinagar and Gulmarg I did not feel insecure," she said.
She felt the efforts of the Union government in fighting insurgency in last five years had yielded good results. "One should thanks the Union government and particularly Deputy Prime Minister Advaniji for bringing about tremendous change in the security environment of Jammu and Kashmir by continuing operations against terrorists," she said.
She felt that besides encouraging tourism in Jammu and Kashmir, the Union government should focus on providing incentives to the state's shawl, carpet and handicraft industries which have the potential to a huge amount foreign exchange.
Houseboat owners and the shikarawalas are quite pleased to see tourists coming back to the Kashmir. Statistics state that while majority of the tourists preferred to stay in Srinagar, many went to Gulmarg, Leh and Pahalgam as well.
"Pahalgam received about 2,000 visitors everyday in last one-and-a-half months. Likewise, we had about 1,500 tourists visiting Gulmarg every day during the same period. Most foreigners preferred to visit Leh," said a top official of the state's tourism ministry.