Srinagar : The Directorate of Tourism, Kashmir, Thursday organised Christmas Eve Celebrations here at SKICC and at St Mary’s Church, Gulmarg in which the members of Christian Community, representatives of Travel trade, and tourists participated in large numbers.In this connection, the premises of the SKICC was decorated with Merry Christmas themed buntings, flags, balloons and various kinds of banners giving a festive look on the occasion.Advisor to Lieutenant Governor, Baseer Ahmad Khan who was chief guest on the occasion inaugurated the function. Secretary Tourism and Culture, Sarmad Hafeez, Director Tourism Kashmir, Nissar Ahmad Wani, Director SKICC, Bakhshi Javed Humayun, besides other officers of the Tourism department were also present on the occasion.The members of Christian community participated in the special prayers, carols and various cultural programmes. The devotees prayed for communal harmony, love and compassion for humanity. Speaking on the occasion, Advisor extended his greetings and wishes to the people and prayed for peace, progress and prosperity of Jammu and Kashmir. He said people of J&K are known for the brotherhood and value communal harmony which is evident from the large participation of the locals and the travel trade members in the celebrations of these festivals.Advisor said the Tourism Department has lined up many activities for promotion of tourism sector and to attract a good number of travellers to J&K. He said apart from Christmas celebrations, the department has made all the preparations for mega event on New Year, winter carnival and Khelo India games which will be held at various resorts including ski resort of Gulmarg.Advisor further announced that government is throwing open many other potential areas for tourism activities and also upgrading the infrastructure to ensure memorable stay for the travellers.He lauded the efforts of the Tourism department and SKICC for organizing such function and hoped that large number of tourists will enjoy white Christmas celebrations at Gulmarg. He urged upon tourism players to take maximum benefit from such platforms provided by government and appealed them and all stakeholders to contribute their best for revival and promotion of tourism industry across J&K.While stressing on importance of highlighting the measures undertaken by Tourism Department for reviving and boosting tourism related activities in J&K, Advisor said media fraternity particularly national media has pivotal role in portraying real picture of Kashmir which has abundant attractiveness and is ideal all four season tourist destination for peace and beauty lovers.
Speaking on the occasion, Secretary Tourism Sarmad Hafeez also extended his Christmas greetings to the community.Sarmad Hafeez said besides the festivals and other tourism promotional events, the department is also organising free skiing courses for youngsters mostly drawn from government schools.“We have already started promotional events. Skiing courses are already in progress by Youth Services and Sports Department at Gulmarg. The 2nd batch of trainees sponsored by the tourism department was also flagged off today. Many other events have started to create a buzz that J&K Tourism is open for travellers which has proven very fruitful as is evident from the fact that enquiries for Kashmir holidays have picked up,” he said.Sarmad Hafeez expressed happiness that, after COVID 19 lowdown which saw every sector especially tourism getting badly affected, the tourists have started visiting the Valley.“Hotels at Ski resort are fully packed and sold out. It is difficult to find a single room till January first week which is a good sign and it has brought cheers to the travel sector here which were badly affected by Covid pandemic lockdown and travel restrictions,” he said.He further said the department of Tourism is making every effort to bring tourists back to the Valley through various tourism promotional programmes including road shows. The Secretary said tourism department has already started campaigns to woo tourists and flow of tourists is increasing day by day amid proper Covid-19 protocols and arrivals have gone up, even locals are visiting tourist places to enjoy snow and snow games.“We are hopeful that the tourist arrival will continue to increase in the coming months. We will also leave no stone unturned in our promotional campaigns in association with the local travel and hospitality sector,” he said.Director Tourism Kashmir Nisar A Wani also spoke on the occasion and gave a detailed overview of the arrangements and preparations put in place at various resorts especially at Gulmarg for winter tourism activities.On the occasion Christmas themed cake competition was also held and the first three winners were given cash awards while others were given mementos and certificates. Scores of young bakers had participated in the competition who designed special cakes on Christmas theme.Earlier, the Advisor flagged off cycling rally as part of the celebrations and also flagged off trainees to Gulmarg for a week long ski course.A separate function was also organised at Gulmarg and prayers were held at the St Mary’s Church – one of the oldest churches of British era. Many tourists also participated in the celebrations at the Church.