Kashmir safe for tourists, expects 1 mn this year: Minister


New Delhi : Jammu and Kashmir is safe for tourists, is the message the state wants to emphasise through numerous road shows and exhibitions being held to woo a million visitors, and has blamed the media for the loss in tourism in 2010 due to the summer unrest.

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State Tourism and Culture Minister Nawang Rigzin, putting the blame on the media, told IANS: “All the tourist destinations are totally safe. What happened is that the media, driven by TRPs, blew things out of proportion.”

Rigzin is here to participate in the three-day South Asia Travel and Tour Expo, which started Friday.

“The need is to dispel the sense of insecurity and the common perception of threat, and that is what we try to do,” he said.

The minister said that several road shows and exhibitions are being organised by the state government to take the message across that Kashmir is safe for tourists.

“We are doing exhibitions and road shows to make people aware that Kashmir is safe,” Rigzin said, adding that the number of tourists has been high despite the disturbance.

“There were 736,000 tourists in Kashmir last year, in addition there were 450,000 pilgrims who came. Ladakh had 77,000 tourists despite the floods,” Rigzin said, “We had 23,000 foreign tourists, and this year we expect more.”

The state aims at attracting one million tourists this year. The people are hopeful that tourist inflow will be higher this year.

“We hope more tourists will come and that the houseboats this time are full by April,” Manzoor Ahmed Wangnoo, chairman of the houseboat owners association in Srinagar, told IANS.

“Last year, even after all the disturbances, the houseboats were all full by June 15. This time we expect it to be full earlier, it is the best feature of Kashmir’s tourism and houseboats are most hospitable,” he said.

Tourism is one of the main economic sources of the state, which has been marred by militancy and unrest o er the last two decades.