Public Private Partnership on anvil, says Tourism Minister

Thursday, 29 September 2011 15:58 Jammu: Ajmer Alam Wani

Many in and outside Jammu and Kashmir believe that the road to development coincides with the tourism in the State. However, in the absence of a policy on Public Private Partnership, the state is not cashing on the potential of involving outside investors.

A PPP project is under way for establishment of Arial Passenger Ropeway at Patnitop. However, indirectly there are some investors in tourism sector who are contributing to the trade in the form of franchises but it will be clearer after the policy on this is implemented. In an interview with Ajmer Alam Wani, Tourism Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora while admitting that many potential tourist spots have not been explored as they remain inaccessible and the security concerns make such pursuits difficult. Jora, however, says the policy on Public Private Participation in the state is under active consideration and very soon the state will come up with concrete policy for Public Private Participation in tourism sector.

AAW: Do you think that the State of Jammu & Kashmir is still paradise on the earth?

NRJ: Yes, our state is no doubt paradise on earth. The serene beauty of our countryside, snow peaked mountains, gushing streams, lush green forests, flora and fauna, our heritage and traditions make us stand alone as choicest destinations for leisure, adventure and pilgrim tourism. People yearn to visit this place for its beauty.

AAW: As the state has three regions, which regions can be further developed as a better destination for tourist and what is government’s priority?

NRJ: Jammu and Kashmir has three distinct regions; each one is host for exquisite tourism potential. While Jammu is home for pilgrim tourism, Kashmir is destination for leisure and adventure tourism and Leh is heaven for heritage and adventure. So, the development in each region is exclusive and independent. The scope of creating more tourism infrastructure is immense in each region and we are working towards focused development of each region.

AAW: Do you agree that the many places that have potential to be tourist destinations remain unexplored?

NRJ: Development is a continuous process and with newer ideas, advanced technology, improved accessibility and better socio-economic growth, the focus on development of tourism infrastructure widens. The scope for development, however, remains forever. Tourism is a trade where innovations and diversification never ends. Your product basket should not get stale and you have to keep on adding products.

AAW: Could you name some major spots and places which could be developed as tourism spots and attract tourists?

NRJ: Bungus, Lolab, Badarwah, Mansar, Zanskar etc are expected to draw large crowd when its accessibility improves.

AAW: According to you what were the main reason due to which many parts of the state remained unexplored?

NRJ: The major reasons, for many potential spots not getting adequately explored are that these remained mostly inaccessible and had security concerns.

AAW: Do you think that government at its own can do the all required?

NRJ: No, the growth is possible only if the society inclusive of all synergise with the government in building the state brick by brick. Tourism trade is open and government should act as facilitator only.

AAW: What is the scope of Public Private Partnership (PPP) in tourism sector?

NRJ: The policy on Public Private Participation (PPP) in the state has been formulated. Very soon Government will come up with its implementation for Public Private Participation in tourism sector, as well as in other sectors.

AAW: At present how many outside investors are contributing in development of tourism in the state?

NRJ: In absence of policy on Public Private Partnership, the state is not getting the benefit of the potential outside investors. A PPP project is under way for establishment of Arial Passenger Ropeway at Patnitop. However, indirectly there are some investors in tourism sector who are contributing to the trade in the form of franchises but it will be clearer after the policy on this is implemented.

AAW: Are more investors approaching the government and if any what type of projects they are planning to take up?

NRJ: Yes, given the potential of tourism in the state, there are investors willing to invest in the hospitality sector of the state aimed at high-end accommodation, resorts facilities and entertainment.

AAW: How could we make a better place for all sorts of tourism and what are the present projects with the government in this direction?

NRJ: The traditional tourism is undergoing a change, as the market preferences have changed due to increased income profile of the large section of population. Our people have now started moving out for seeing places at an early age. To capture this segment we are adding products like adventure tourism, golf tourism, water sports tourism, heritage tourism, trekking, skiing, mountaineering, polo, rafting, paragliding etc. To harness heritage tourism in the state we are further exploring the untapped potential of rich heritage of the state. Mega projects like Mubarak Mandi Heritage site in Jammu, Naagar Nagar in Srinagar and Spiritual tourism in Leh are very important project for attracting visitors to the state.

AAW: How many projects have been completed so far and how many are in progress?

NRJ: For development of infrastructure related tourism, the state has taken up many projects, of which many are under way and many have been completed. In this case 19 tourism Development Authorities have established in all, for focused development of newer destinations and strengthening the existing ones. Three ‘Tourism Circuits’ connecting lesser known tourist places and 50 ‘Tourist Villages’ are in progress. TRC at Nowgam is now ready, Yatri Niwas at Jammu is operational and range of golf courses are under completion in Jammu and Kashmir.

AAW: Who are the main players working with government on these projects?

NRJ: The funding for these projects is mainly done by the GoI and state is also supporting these projects within its means, on priority.

AAW: What type of change in tourism industry of the state you expect in next five years?

NRJ: With improved income profile of the large section of the population, I see domestic tourism to be a major market in coming days and also the flow of in-bound tourists indicate that more countries have started picking up this place for tourism, which is perhaps due to the pro-active publicity campaign launched by the state both at national level and at international level. ‘Visit Kashmir’ slogan is bringing more tourists to every part of this state. Besides leisure tourism, adventure tourism is going to be important market for us and the state has to keep the basket full of fresh tourism products.

AAW: Do you have plans and projects to attract and involve foreign players to boost the tourism industry of the state?

NRJ: The policy for Public Private Partnership is presently under consideration of the cabinet.

AAW: Are you satisfied with the measures taken by the government so far where the bottlenecks are?

NRJ: We look for the new heights in the tourist graph every day and strive for bigger share of the market at national and international level and we are doing well. The inaccessibility to the newer and potential destination is the main bottleneck which is being attended by the government and we have been successful improving the accessibility.