Friday, March 8, 2013

\'Kashmir open for tourists 365 days a year\'

NEW DELHI, March 8, 2013

"A statement issued by Shah Rukh Khan to describe the picturesque beauty of Kashmir is equivalent to a hundred campaigns launched by us. The biggest star of Bollywood was in the Valley for an entire month shooting Yash Chopra's last film Jab Tak Hai Jaan. The State Government came to know that Khan and the rest of the cast were shooting in Kashmir. So our priority was to keep him safe and sound," said Jammu & Kashmir Minister of Tourism G. A. Mir here on Thursday referring to Shah Rukh Khan, who played a recklessly bold Army officer in the movie.

Releasing a colourful and insightful Kashmir travel guide, maps and a pen drive at Chemlsford Club here, Mr. Mir said there was a time when Kashmir was the most popular destination for film-makers of the Hindi film industry.

"Film-makers would picturise romantic songs of the famous lead pairs and sometimes shoot most of their movies in the Valley. But the turbulence in the State led Bollywood film-makers to search for other destinations. Luckily, a peaceful atmosphere is prevailing in the State now and this has led to stars like Ranbir Kapoor and Bipasha Basu staying and shooting in the Valley for their films."

The Minister said the State Government informs people about the places which were visited by stars from the film firmament after they have left the State.

"We withhold information about movement of film crews in advance. It is necessary to keep our lips sealed in order to ensure their safety. Shooting of films in Kashmir undoubtedly gives a fillip to tourism. Last year we had over 12 lakh domestic tourists and more than 32,000 foreign tourists."

Noting that tourism has been designated as a major resource for economic revival and employment generation in the State, the Minister said that after agriculture and horticulture, tourism is the third largest industry in Kashmir. "Kashmir was the favourite destination of the Mughal rulers. The Mughal Garden is situated on the banks of Dal Lake. Apart from the perennial favourite places, we have developed new tourist destinations. It was not a flippant remark when the Valley was described as Paradise on Earth. We invite Kashmir lovers to enjoy our hospitality. The bulk of tourism comes from different States."

During the 1990s, many countries had issued advisories not to travel to Kashmir. "Ladakh was the first choice but Kashmir was the ultimate for the foreign tourists. In the past two months, we have received encouraging signs as far as tourism is concerned. These well brought out guide and maps would be available at airports and Kashmir House in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities."

"Kerala, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and the North-East are other interesting places to visit but they welcome tourists in select seasons. But Kashmir is open for tourists 365 days a year," said Mr. Mir. Referring to demonstrations in the State, he said political activities never clash with tourism.
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