Advisor to Lieutenant Governor, Baseer Ahmad Khan inaugurated the one-day Sonamarg Winter Festival that witnessed the participation of locals and tourists in various snow sports activities including skiing, snow sledge, snow biking, etc.
The event also included various colourful cultural items presented by the artists of the valley and performances by singers. The one-day festival was organised by the Directorate of Tourism Kashmir in collaboration with district administration Ganderbal, Sonamarg Development Authority, Hoteliers’ Association Sonamarg, NIEL and NHIDCL.
Advisor to the Lt. Governor, Baseer Khan, while speaking on the occasion complimented all stakeholders for making it possible to open Sonamarg destination in the month of February which, he said, otherwise usually opens in the month of April. He said that with the “increase in tourist footfall in the Valley, a decision was taken to reopen Sonamarg so that tourists get to see one more winter destination which is as beautiful as Gulmarg and Pahalgam.”
While highlighting the various initiatives taken for promotion of the tourism sector in J&K, he said that in the backdrop of the directions passed by the Lt Governor with regard to revival of tourism industry, a series of activities had been convened to “ensure that tourism related activities are conducted to promote local tourism.” He added: “The LG is very particular in exploring other tourist destinations in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir with an aim to make it a tourist hub and boost the economy of the UT. Tourism has a positive impact on the economy of Kashmir as it gives impetus to various allied sectors like handicrafts, handlooms and horticulture.”
He also sought cooperation of all stakeholders in ensuring that best services are offered to the tourists for development of the tourism industry in Jammu and Kashmir.
Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, Shafqat Iqbal in his opening remarks welcomed all the participants and said that the main aim of the event was to promote Sonamarg as another winter destination, claiming that with the commissioning of escape tunnel of the Z-Morh tunnel, Sonamarg as a tourist destination “shall now be open during winters as well.” He said that all stakeholders shall be upgrading their infrastructure and services to cope with the harsh weather conditions of Sonamarg during winters.
While expressing satisfaction over the conduct of the event, Director Tourism Kashmir Dr. G N Itoo said that revival of tourism sector in J&K which, he said, had been adversely affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was only possible due to the “concerted efforts of the UT Administration”. He added that the Tourism Department had initiated a series of promotional programmes to revive the tourism sector and arrangements have also been made for opening of Tulip Garden and Badamwari. He said that several initiatives are being taken for promoting camping tourist destinations in the Valley.
Earlier, the Advisor also inspected the stalls displaying traditional art, crafts, ethnic cuisine, street food, etc. which had been set up by various departments including Animal Husbandry, Khadi & Village Industries, Tourism, Handicrafts, Forest, Fisheries, Horticulture, Floriculture and other private entrepreneurs to showcase their products.
Among others, SSP Ganderbal, Khalil Poswal, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Farooq Ahmad Baba, SDM Kangan, CPO, CEO, SDA, Hoteliers Sonamarg Association, officers of civil administration and tourists attended the one day festival.