Pony and taxi mafia in Kashmir: Tourism director Itoo addresses travel curator concerns, shares 2022 plans

Kashmir Tourism will focus on 75 new offbeat destinations this year.

Kashmir is booked until February. Despite the pandemic, the number of tourists has only skyrocketed. Dr. GN Itoo, who took charge as Kashmir’s tourism director last January, has made sure that the valley remains on top of the bucket list by unveiling pandemic-proof marketing strategies.

In an interaction with TravelDine, Itoo shed light on some initiatives that will boost luxury tourism in Kashmir.

“Kashmir has been swarming with tourists despite the pandemic. That’s because we created a safe passage for them. Last year, we introduced several confidence-building measures like 100% timely vaccination of service providers and strict compliance of Covid protocols, along with capacity building activities. we organized several publicity campaigns last year and made sure we reached out to the right people by sharing our initiatives on both digital and print media. We had also invited bloggers and influencers to experience the best of Kashmir,” he says.

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The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, located in Gulmarg, is a popular choice for travelers.

As part of India@75: Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the tourism board initiated several campaigns that will hopefully reap the rewards this year.

One of the frequent complaints from travel curators is that tourism in Kashmir has not gone beyond Srinagar, Gulmarg and Pahalgam. There has been a backlash against this lack of impetus. Many have questioned why other beautiful locales lack the necessary infrastructure.

Itoo explained that the tourism board has actively begun promoting offbeat destinations with a focused tagline: New Hopes, New Destinations.

“We have identified 75 offbeat destinations in Jammu & Kashmir. Of this, 38 are from Kashmir: Sonmarg, Gurez, Doodpathri, Tosa Maidan, Wullar, Sinthan Top, Verinag, Kokernag, Bangus Valley, and more. These offbeat destinations will focus on trekking, mountaineering, cuisine, art, and handicraft,” says Itoo.

Pony mafia
Ponies in Gulmarg, Kashmir

Addressing the grievances of the travel agents, who are having a hard time dealing with the taxi mafia and pony mafia, he said that the tourism board is looking to standardize the costs.

“We are planning to introduce pre-paid system for various services starting with pony rides,” he said, sharing the following tariff with TravelDine.

Year 2022 will witness a focused social media campaign to promote Kashmir. Adventure tourism will be the key focus. The tourism board will continue to remain in touch with the travel fraternity through webinars, conferences and events, says Itoo.

Despite the pandemic, more than 5.60 lakh tourists visited Kashmir last year, he says.

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