Govt to repeal registration, trade rules of hospitality sector

300% increase in foreign tourist arrivals: Mudgal

Irfan Tramboo

Srinagar, June 23: Aiming to ensure ease of doing business, the Government has decided to repeal the old registration and trade rules governing the hospitality sector, especially hotels, and introduce new rules to address the long-standing concerns of the tourism industry.
In an exclusive interview with Excelsior, Commissioner/ Secretary Tourism Department, Yasha Mudgal, said that the registration and trade rules in J&K were a bit “outdated,” and there was considerable “resentment” against them.
“Those rules required annual registration and numerous clearances. To support the tourism industry, help it flourish, and introduce ease of doing business, we have decided to repeal the old rules,” she said.
Mudgal mentioned that the Department will soon release new trade and registration rules, which are currently under formulation. “These will soon be put in the public domain for inviting suggestions and objections.”
She emphasized that the Government, through new rules, aims to address all concerns of the hotel industry, making the process of registration and renewal easy.
During the interview, the Commissioner/Secretary stressed the need to explore new tourism destinations, noting that the existing ones are experiencing too much load.
“Developing infrastructure at new tourist destinations is a huge project, and the Government wants to proceed in a planned manner,” she said.

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She informed that while new tourist destinations such as Doodpathri in Kashmir and Bhaderwah in the Jammu division are witnessing an increase in visitors, additional locations across J&K have been finalized.
“These destinations are to be developed systematically, and a work plan is under formulation. It will be implemented over 5-7 years. For this, the Department is working, and in the next 2-3 months, the plan should be ready. Consultants will be engaged, and we will undertake phased implementation,” she said.
The issue of houseboats-whose numbers have decreased over the years due to various reasons, particularly the non-availability of specific wood for reconstruction and repairs-was also discussed with the Commissioner/Secretary.
Mudgal said that the Tourism Department has already taken up the matter with the Forest Department, urging the introduction of special provisions to facilitate houseboat owners.
“We are in active talks with the department, urging them for special provisions to facilitate houseboat owners so that they are provided with the necessary materials for repairs and renovation,” she said.
The Commissioner/Secretary stressed that houseboats are a crucial segment of tourism in J&K and are very iconic and unique. “The Government wants to promote them.”
Regarding the overall tourism scenario in J&K, especially Kashmir, Yasha said that post-COVID-19 and post-Article 370, tourism has picked up well, with an increasing number of tourist arrivals each year.
“Last year, J&K recorded 2.11 crore tourist visits. This year, we hope to exceed that number. The difference is palpable, and it is all packed; Jammu is also doing well, with Bhaderwah emerging as a new tourist destination,” she said.
On the increase in foreign tourists, she said there has been a 300 percent increase, with Kashmir witnessing nearly 55,000 foreign tourists last year.
Regarding the development and augmentation of tourism infrastructure, the Commissioner/Secretary said that there is still much to do, highlighting the lack of capacity at most existing tourist destinations.
“The capacity is much less than what we require at most destinations; demand far exceeds supply. The homestay policy introduced by the Government is doing particularly well; around 2,000 homestays have been registered so far, with 1,500 more in the pipeline.”
In border areas, Mudgal said, public amenities, stay arrangements, and connectivity are also under focus. “We are working on all these fronts, and over the past few years, there has been an increase in tourism-related infrastructure.”
Regarding complaints of overcharging, the Commissioner/Secretary disagreed, stating that there are no specified rates and that the Government does not regulate hotel prices. “It is a demand-and-supply-driven market.”
On complaints of harassment of tourists by guides and others associated with tourism, She said: “Some complaints have come to our notice, and we are taking active steps to ensure it does not happen. We are trying to regulate things. There is always scope for improvement, and the aim is to facilitate tourists.”
On the Department’s move to promote Kashmir as a wedding destination, the Commissioner/Secretary said that although the initiative is progressing well, there is a need for more systematic and organized efforts.
“In this regard, both Directorates have been asked to share their inputs so that we can frame an SOP document to help Kashmir flourish as a wedding destination.”