CS directs Tourism Deptt to complete all projects under Capex by March 31

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Feb 4: The Chief Secretary, Dr. Arun Kumar Mehta today directed the Tourism department to focus on tourist comfort, convenience and satisfaction, improved travel guidance and way finding (e.g. signs, maps and websites available in multiple languages), and the potential benefits of integrating art and cultural amenities (e.g. unique artwork/ large billboards/ hoardings at railway station, at Lakhanpur border and cultural displays at destinations for enhancing experience of the tourists to position J&K as a top global brand.
He said the highest ever tourist arrivals in J&K during the last 4 months is the result of the image makeover the UT has undergone along with the development of tourism infrastructure during the last two years.
While complimenting the department on increased tourist activity in J&K, he asked the department to target tourist arrival of 10 lakh in the Valley next year and an aggregate tourist influx of 2 crore in J&K.
He made these observations while reviewing the Capex of the department in which Administrative Secretary, Tourism Department and other senior officers of the department were present.
The Chief Secretary said that as much as the inherent beauty of the place, it is the overall experience of the places the visitors have during their stay that makes the tourist destinations the go to places for others.
Dr Mehta directed the department to involve the local people in and around the tourist destinations in the effort to improve the ambience of the tourist places while further adding that all tourist places need to be advertised on the aesthetically bright and colourful hoardings/billboards on the national highways and other important roads in the UT, especially on the national Highway, Jammu to Katra, Airports at Srinagar and Jammu, and railway stations.
Highlighting the importance of the Akhnoor town as a tourist place, the Chief Secretary directed the department to develop Akhnoor as a popular weekend getaway for the residents of Jammu city and surrounding places after the flyover on Jammu-Akhnor road is constructed by year end and the travel time to Akhnoor is reduced to 25-30 minutes.
Dr Mehta highlighted the importance of Surinsar as a potentially attractive evening destination for the Jammuites and directed the department to develop the place complete with all recreational activities, improved surroundings and well laid internal roads.
Earlier, Sarmad Hafeez, Administrative Secretary, Tourism Department in his presentation informed that during the period from September -December 2021, around 54 lakh tourists have visited J&K, which represents the highest tourist inflow for these months during the last 3 years.
He said that the tourist influx in Kashmir Valley has risen from around 5.65 lakh in 2019 to 6.66 lakh in the year 2021.
He asked the department to ensure that river cruise in Jehlum river is started by March end this year while further adding that the amphitheatre at Bagh-i-Bahu garden should be put to use by roping in local music groups, theatre groups, local artists etc. or by organizing activities like talent hunt programmes, singing competitions etc. for creating suitable recreational avenues for the interested people.
Dr Mehta asked the department to explore the introduction of laser and sound shows at all the important tourist places, besides facilitating launch of water sports and other sports/adventure related activities on commercial basis in J&K.
The Chief Secretary directed the department to ensure that TRC and cafeteria at Verinag are made to put to use by the department by 15th March 2022.