The Jammu and Kashmir government and private tour operators in that state are trying to woo tourists from the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala to visit the valley, which is battling a dry tourist season.
With the autumn season set to be as dull as the months preceding it, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who visited Srinagar, himself asked all countrymen to visit Kashmir and enjoy the hospitality of its people.
The J&K Tourism Department is concentrating on South India as many tourists from the South have thronged Kashmir and even private operators feel the the southern states can make up for the drop in tourist footfall. Despite Kashmir seeing a dip in tourism, many tourists from the southern states have visited Kashmir. “They have not been impacted by the negative media publicity and are ready to enjoy Kashmir’s beauty and hospitality. We are expecting more of them in the current autumn season,” said an office bearer of Kashmir tour and travel trade body.
In the last week of September, some groups of tourists from Tamil Nadu visited Kashmir and the tour operators from Tamil Nadu have promised more visitors. “We had recently a tourist group of 32 people from Tamil Nadu and they stayed in our hotel. They were thrilled by the beauty of the valley and the hospitality of Kashmiris,” said one hotelier from Srinagar who hosted them for four days.
The director of Tourism, Kashmir, Mehmood Ahmad Shah, told this reporter that South India could be the ideal tourist-provider to Kashmir. U. Gokulakrishnan, proprietor of Gokul Tours and Travels in Tamil Nadu, was recently in Kashmir with his group of tourists. He told the media that he will be happy to bring more groups.
Meanwhile, film groups from Bollywood and the South are showing renewed interests in Kashmir and some of them were recently shooting their films here, sending a positive message outside that things were normal in Kashmir. The South Indian film industry has also started shooting in Kashmir and currently Sheela Shetty has been shooting the film Hyper here and the entire crew is thrilled to be here. Recently, an advertisement campaign by a prominent brand also shot their film in Srinagar.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who also holds the tourism portfolio, recently inaugurated a short film released by the state Tourism Department, showcasing the warmth and hospitality of Kashmiri people. This promotional film has been a huge hit on the social networking websites and has renewed hopes among the local people connected with tourism that tourists will come back to Kashmir.
There are 750 registered tour and travel agencies in Jammu and Katra. In Kashmir there are around 550 agencies. In both regions, they have not been able to generate any tourism this year so far.