‘It is not just the economy. It is people to people contact’
‘The PM, the Lt Governor – All Want Kashmir to Prosper. They want to resolve problems of the hospitality sector. But things are taking time at ground level’
Founder Chairman, Mushtaq Group Of Hotels
Chairman, J&K Hoteliers Club
Haqiqat ye hai ki tourism has picked up well in Kashmir in all segments. Kashmir is full of natural beauty and hence more and more people are drawn here. But we don’t have the infrastructure of the required level to address the needs of high-end tourists. There are many challenges. The government must address this.
Hotels Need Permission For Renovation
There are lease issues. There are concerns regarding lease extension. We need to renovate the hospitality properties so that tourists are happy. The hoteliers are willing to do renovation, but the government must resolve the issues of registrations and licenses.
I met the Prime Minister last month to request this. I told him people of our own country are coming to Kashmir in large numbers. We need the right facilities to provide hospitality services to them. Our hotels need upgradation and renovation so that tourists are happy.
The hoteliers are ready to do the renovation. All that we are asking – nothing is beyond the law. All of this is within the purview of the law. These problems are being faced in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, other places. We have old hotels that were made about 40 years ago. Now they should be renovated to meet the tastes and the demands of the tourists. The government needs to address this promptly. Please allow us under law to care for our own house.
Vital Areas That Need Government Attention
Good roads. Street lights. Electricity. All these need to be addressed by the government so that Kashmir offers the highest degree of joy and comfort to the tourists.
We should have clean and well-provided washrooms on the way to popular tourist destinations. If the government wants that the hoteliers association should provide for it, please tell us. We shall do it.
The important thing is that these issues need to be addressed. The Tourism Department works very hard for the promotion of tourism. They know that the road to peace and prosperity in Kashmir is through our robust tourism sector. When they work so hard, the appropriate support system must also be provided.
We Want Ease Of Doing Business
All of us are aware that when tourism flourishes in Kashmir, we all benefit. The government is taking so many measures to make tourism flourish.
Then ease of doing business must be assured. Renovation. Reconstruction. Repair. These aren’t such major issues that they need policy decisions at the highest level. They can very well by addressed by the UT Administration. Permissions for lease extension, for licenses, for registration – all this can be streamlined easily by the UT Administration.
But it is not done. Even though there is honesty of intention at the highest level, these basics are not addressed swiftly. They are hanging for years.
PM Modi, the Lt Governor – All Want Kashmir To Flourish
In early April, I met Prime Minister Modi to discuss these issues which are confronting the hospitality sector. He got very surprised that we are facing challenges at such a basic level. He said – we shall definitely address all these problems. We want tarakki in Kashmir. We want to focus on growth and development in Kashmir.
The Prime Minister is very keen that things should be good in Kashmir. There should be proper facilities for all sectors. The PM has given me full promise that all our issues and problems shall be redressed soon and appropriately.
I had met the Lt Governor too, for discussing these issues. He is equally keen on Kashmir’s total and all-round development. But things take time at ground level. What to do.
Growth Of Business Tourism
With the right facilities, with infrastructure upgradation – one can expect all round growth of tourism in Jammu and Kashmir. I want to say with pride that Kashmir is the number one tourism destination in our country.
There is no place like Kashmir. After more and more people are coming here, they are getting the faith that there is nothing to match Kashmir. Is jaisi fiza logon ne dekhi nahin hai. This is the reality.
Develop More Tourist Destinations
There is so much potential in Kashmir. There are so many destinations that can be made world-class tourist hubs. The infrastructure should be such that people go to these destinations for 20 days, for a month.
Srinagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonmarg. These are already very strong. Other tourist hubs can be developed. Tourists need comfort and facilities. They don’t want to run here and there. This should be our singular focus for the hospitality sector. Every inch of Kashmir is a tourist destination. When tourism thrives, every sector of the Kashmir economy thrives.
About High Rates Of Hotel Rooms In Kashmir
A few days ago, the Secretary Tourism called a meeting of all the major hoteliers. I said at the meeting – if somebody is engaging in black marketing, the government must take suitable action. We are with the government on this.
We are totally agreed that all stakeholders must act responsibly. The government should classify the hotels so that tourists know what to expect in which property. But tourism also works according to the principle of demand and supply.
Need For Luxury Commercial Vehicles In Kashmir
The government must provide permission for the purchase of high-end commercial vehicles in Kashmir. The government knows that we need these for the high-profile tourists who are coming here now. So why should there be delay in giving us the permission?
Tourism was blooming in Kashmir till a few years ago. Then unrest happened and gave a severe blow to tourism. After that we suffered due to Covid. Now finally when things are good again, the government must be the enabler and let all stakeholders give the best they can to the tourism sector, so that Kashmir becomes and stays the number one tourist destination in the country.
PLEASE ENABLE EXISTING STAKEHOLDERS TO UPGRADE
The government is very keen that new hotels should come up in Kashmir to serve all segments. The government wants new investors to strengthen the hospitality sector here. That is fine. At the same time, one must be practical.
The new investor, the new construction – all this will take long. At least a few years. Till the new players set up base and start functioning, Kashmir Tourism cannot be put on hold. We do not need to wait that long to provide world-class infrastructure to the tourists here.
It is my request to the government – please enable the existing stakeholders to improve. Please address the lease renewal and extension issues. Please address the issues of licenses and registration. Please carry out full checks at ground level and then give permission where merited. All these decisions need to be taken. They cannot be moving about on files forever.