TANGMARG, Sep 11: Minister for Education, Mr Naeem Akhtar, Friday said the vastly unexplored tourism sector can and must evolve as the biggest employer in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Minister was speaking at the inauguration of "Zaiqa Guest House and Restaurant" at the scenic Tangmarg locality near Gulmarg. The restaurant, built by Jammu Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) at the cost of Rs 1.4 crore, has five wood-paneled rooms, a VIP lounge and a dining hall which can accommodate individuals as well as families.
The Minister, who was accompanied by Secretary Tourism, Mr Farooq Shah, who also holds the charge of Managing Director, JKTDC, said the tourism department must construct an outdoor facility like a barbecue and coffee house at the restaurant, which can become a regular attraction for tourists as well as locals of Tangmarg.
Regretting the lack of facilities at the tourist places across the state, Mr Akhtar said the State Government is evolving a plan for round-the-year tourism to Gulmarg by improving basic amenities like water supply, power and road network.
"A gifted place such as Gulmarg can drive the engine of economy. And I am sure that with the vision of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Gulmarg will become the Davos of East," Mr Akhtar said, adding that the renovation of Maharaja Palace at Gulmarg is underway and it will be inaugurated on December 25.
" Tourism sector must become an avenue for providing employment to educated youths of the state. If all goes well, the tourism sector will evolve as the biggest employer in the state," the Minister said.
Mr Akhtar, however, stressed that the people associated with tourism sector like tour operators and ponny-wallahs need to change their attitude towards the tourists.
"The tourism has the best team under Farooq Sahab. And I am hopeful that the department will touch new heights and become one of the biggest employers in the state," Mr Akhtar said.
Stressing on providing world-class facilities to high-end tourists, Mr Akhtar said the tourism department must focus on capacity building. "Things have started improving. Our party has tied up with the BJP for peace and prosperity of the state. The change is visible with improvement in road networks across the state," he said.
Lauding the Minister of R&B, Floriculture and Parks, Altaf Bukhari, Mr Akhtar said the macadamisation of Parimpora-Tangmarg road will be completed soon and new roads will be built in Kunzer and Badrakoot to exploit the huge tourism potential of Gulmarg.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Farooq Shah said the state government will fully explore the tourism potential of Gulmarg by providing world class facilities to tourists.
"It is our responsibility that tourists return with happy memories from our state. The tour operators and ponywallahs must stop fleecing tourists. They must evolve a culture of tourism which will make Kashmir an attractive destination for people across the globe," he said.
He lauded the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mr Akhtar for their efforts in developing the tourism industry in the state, "In coming time, we are going to organize family skiing events as well to attract more tourists to Gulmarg," Mr Shah said.
The function was also attended by MLA Tangmarg, Mohammad Abbas and CEO, Gulmarg Cable Car, Nazir Ahmad Mir.