Reflecting the general easing of tension and restoration of normalcy, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a steady inflow of tourists, both from India and abroad, and commencement of location shooting by film producers from Mumbai and Chennai this year, the state Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said in London on Monday night.
"As of September 2003, Kashmir received over 160,000 tourists, including about 55,000 foreigners, a quantum jump from the previous year's dismissal figure of 18,530 arrivals," Mufti told PTI in an interview.
Mufti, who is here on a week-long visit to participate in the World Travel Market, said many film producers from Mumbai and Chennai also did location shooting at Pahalgam and Gulmarg and some of them spent a month to 45 days.
"There has been a change for the better and it is the will of the people. People want normalcy and people want peace after nearly a decade long militants' onslaught," he said.
The chief minister said more than 154,000 devotees participated in the Amarnath Yatra this year which passed off without a single incident.
"These pilgrims came from almost every part of India and many even from abroad. Similarly, Ladakh recorded the highest-ever arrival figure of the last 10 years, receiving nearly 25,000 tourists as of August this year.
Noting that the state government has taken a policy decision to accelerate its efforts to revive tourism, the chief minister said the strategy included integrated development and upgradation of basic infrastructure in tourist resorts and full support to private sector for development of tourist infrastructure and optimising tourist services.
It also included accelerated publicity and promotion of tourist attractions, destinations worldwide and revival and promotion of cultural and traditional heritage and regulation of the travel trade.
"We are developing winter tourism in Kashmir and promoting the state as an important golfing destination. The Royal Springs Golf Course, Srinagar, which is now considered as one of the best in South Asia, is being promoted actively for attracting high spending tourists," he said.
This year several events were held in the Golf Course, beginning with the Ambassadors' Cup 2003 in which ambassadors of ten countries and 38 top executives of major corporate houses operating in India participated.
Recently the Kashmir Open 2003 tournament was held in Srinagar to kick-start the current PGA India Tour in which top professional golfers from the Indian sub-continent participated. The golf courses in Gulmarg and Pahalgam have also been made operational, he said.
"Promotion of winter games is also receiving due attention. Several ski events are planned for the coming winter in Gulmarg. The National Winter Games 2004 are also being held in Srinagar during the coming winter," he said.