To attract tourists to Kashmir, the travel and tourism sector have been participating in several road shows and travel trade fairs across country anticipating better tourist arrivals this year.
Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF) started the campaign of the road shows from Pune where over 100 travel agents from Maharashtra participated.
Another hotel association from JK, J&K Hoteliers Club is also scheduled to organise road show at Mumbai to tap Maharashtra market and bollywood which has of late re-kindled its romance with Kashmir.
In an interview with Mir Baseerat, Chairman Hoteliers Club Mushtaq Chaya talks about the success of road shows being conducted by hoteliers and tour operators of the State across India and abroad for tourism promotion.
How have the road shows helped JK attract tourists?
Every state has its budget for tourism promotion and they organise road shows across the world to attract maximum number of tourists. Though, our state gets meager funding for tourism promotion, the hotel, travel and houseboat associations have been doing commendable job by organising road shows across many cities in India.
Recently, Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association conducted its Road Show in Pune wherein over 100 travel agents participated. The travel agents are the main sellers of the destination who we mostly target during these road shows. It benefits us a big deal. Our state needs more and aggressive promotions than other state as we are receiving lesser number of tourists.
The members who participate in these shows also get an opportunity to network with their potential clients and agents to promote their companies.
Hoteliers Club is also planning road show in Mumbai. How are your preparations going?
We have been in Mumbai for past couple of days in connection with our road show in the city. We will be inviting leading tour operators and destination sellers during our show and showcase them our tourism products. We are also in touch with famous bollywood stars and also filmmakers who will attend our show. Bollywood shooting promotes Kashmir as a scenic destination at global level. Their participation is must for our show. During the shows, we also invite both regional and national media to cover the event and sensitize them how important it is for them to cover positive stories.
How is tourism department helping travel and tourism bodies in such road shows?
Actually this is the job of the tourism department to organise road shows across the globe.
However, to make the travel shows effective, the department is involving local travel and hospitality sector associations who organise the shows in different cities.
The associations have well established contacts within and outside the country which makes it easier for them to organise the show. It is also cost effective for the tourism department involving local associations in these shows or else their expenses will be very high for such events. The department will have to go for national level bidding which will only delay such initiatives. The associations also spend their own money to make these shows successful. We are thankful to the department of tourism for taking tourism stakeholders on board for its publicity campaigns. Overall it is a joint effort, in which we need to collaborate with each other.
Besides road shows, what do you suggest for tourism promotion?
As I said containing national media is a key to our success. Kashmir is already in the hearts and minds of the travellers. They crave to visit JK especially Kashmir which is truly a paradise on Earth. However, we suffer from wrong perception that Kashmir is not safe for tourists which hinders our growth.
We need to develop PR with national media. The department doesn’t have to visit national media houses in Delhi and plead them for positive stories but we need to have frequent interactions without local representatives, bureau chiefs of these national and international media houses. Kashmiris are working with all major media houses of national and international repute who we can engage for developing positive stories. They can’t shrug off from their duty of covering encounters but they can’t deny making positive stories either. Besides, we need to engage PR companies in Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal and other places. We need to feed these PR companies with positive stories from Kashmir who can be asked to get wider coverage of the stories in newspapers popular in regional languages.
How was the year 2018 for tourism industry and what are your expectations this year?
Given the amount of negative media publicity the Kashmir gets in national media, the tourist footfall has been hit badly over the years. We saw bumper tourism in 2012 but since then it is not picking up as expected. However, during our campaigning in several cities, we are getting good response from the travellers and our principal agents across the country. Allah has also been benevolent with timely and plenty snowfall this season which brings cheers among travellers. We are hopeful of this year’s tourism provided there are no untoward incidents and major political disturbances here. We also need to do more than road shows to help revive tourism.