‘TAAK won’t rest till Kashmir becomes favourite destination for travellers’

‘TAAK won’t rest till Kashmir becomes favourite destination for travellers’The travel trade fraternity from J&K left no stone unturned to promote J&K’s tourism potential across many cities in India. In collaboration with department of tourism Kashmir, various travel and hotel associations organized road shows and seminars at Ahmedabad, Surat, Indore, Raipur, New Delhi, Kolkata, etc.

Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) also made its strong presence with open-jeep rally in Ahmedabad city.

President TAAK Manzoor Siddiq was the brain behind organizing first ever jeep-rally in any city in India which attracted huge attention of the locals. Scores of the travel agents from TAAK participated in the rally which was also attended by tourism officials and travel and tour operators from Ahmedabad.

In an interview, Manzoor Siddiq talks about TAAK’s promotional campaign in Ahmedabad and later in Mumbai.

How did the idea of organizing jeep rally come to your mind?

TAAK was planning to organize road show in which not only travel agents but locals can also participate. We wanted to highlight Kashmir’s tourism products to local population in Gujarat. The only way to showcase our tourism potential to them was to organize road shows in the city and its famous markets. TAAK decided to visit Gujarat as locals from this State visit Kashmir in large numbers.

TAAK held several meetings in Srinagar about how to make this program successful. We constituted several committees, which were given different tasks for this road show. Some of us visited Ahmedabad a week in advance to make arrangements while one party was in Delhi to make arrangements for uniform, banners, flags, publicity material. It was very hectic but with the support of tourism department Kashmir, tourism officials and local youth in Ahmedabad and our members made it successful.

How was the response to the road show?

It was overwhelming. We hired several jeeps and cars which moved into busiest markets in Ahmedabad on February 12. The road show started from Ellis bridge at 11:30 pm and culminated at 4:30 pm. All our members wore uniform so as to become noticeable. During the road show, the members distributed publicity material including brochures highlighting J&K’s tourism potential and different tourism products. The TAAK members also visited some of the colleges, Universities and malls where they interacted with the students. The show was also held at the biggest shopping mall of the city – Alpha 1. The members informed the masses about the Kashmir virgin beauty especially the new destinations developed the J&K government including Doedpatehri, Yousmarg, Aharbal, Kokernag, Verinag, Naranag, Bangus, Lolab, Gurez, etc,.

Did TAAK members who participated in the road show get business for their companies?

The road show was not only meant for doing business but to attract travellers to Kashmir. Our main motive was to promote Kashmir and increase tourist flow from Gujarat to our State. J&K’s tourism prospects were hit by 2014-floods, but with the efforts of the government and locals, everything was normal within few months. However, the floods did affect tourist flow. It was mandatory to visit these cities and inform people that Kashmir is as beautiful as it was earlier. About our own travel agents, they got one full day to visit their own agents and sell packages. They visited the offices of many travel agents and attracted their attention to Kashmir who assured them to send groups. Our members are getting good response this time. We are hopeful of good business for our members.

You also organized seminar in Ahmedabad.  How successful was that?

Seminar under the theme “See Kashmir in New Light” was the part our 2-week promotional campaign. We organized seminar in Ahmedabad on the following day in which we had invited Gujarat’s top travel agents. Director Tourism Kashmir Mahmood A Shah was chief guest who gave beautiful presentation on J&K’s tourism products. Director Tourism Jammu R K Verma was also present on the occasion who also projected J&K’s as best destination especially pilgrim sector of Jammu. Over all, we made a strong presence in Gujarat. The travel agents from Gujarat promised us to promote J&K.

TAAK also organized rally at Juhu beach in Mumbai. Tell us something about that?

From the word go, our motive was to make J&K noticeable through our promotional campaigns. Road shows help highlight the product among masses. As TAAK team reached Mumbai, we decided to organize another road show. Juhu beach was the best place where many Mumbaikars and tourists from other states and countries also come for morning walk. We reached the place as early as 7:30 am and organized a rally. We invited the joggers for our rally who willingly participated. At that time, we interacted with locals and distributed publicity material. We walked over two kilometers with joggers and waved flags which had TAAK and department of tourism logo. The onlookers were keen to watch our march who also wished to visit Kashmir.

After low turnout in the year 2015, is travel fraternity now expecting good response this year?

All the associations of travel agents and hotels from J&K did their best to attract tourists during winter months of promotional campaigns. We received good response in travel marts, seminars and road shows. The year 2016 will be good for tourism and we are expecting increased tourist flow. The only thing is that we need to provide them best services.

J&K is the best destination for holiday planners but still we don’t receive good number of tourists. What prevents tourists from visiting Kashmir?

There are many reasons. We are doing our best to attract tourists. Government should also pitch in. It has to make Kashmir accessible like other states and cities. We don’t have railway link with other states that is also one of the reasons. Jammu should be connected with special holiday trains that can improve tourist flow. Besides, during peak season, the air fare to Kashmir becomes unaffordable which government has to look into. It should pressurize civil aviation ministry to press more flights to Kashmir. Government should ask Air India to start big airlines which carry around 400 passengers. TAAK has always pressed government to increasing trains to Jammu and frequency of flights to Srinagar during peaks season so that Kashmir is easily accessible for travelers. Then there will be no looking back.

Does TAAK have any other plans for tourism promotion?

We will not relax until we ensure Kashmir is the first priority for travellers. As our members have reached Srinagar to attend their offices, we will make programs to see how well we can receive tourists. We are planning more programmes in Kashmir also so that we ensure that tourists who visit Valley have pleasant time. Tourists should feel at home. Whatever the complaints they have, we will ensure to address them with the help of tourism department. We will organize programs at prime tourist destinations and take feedback from tourists. We will not let any service provider cheat the tourists who are our valued guests. If our guests go home with pleasant memories, only then they can recommend others. Word of mouth is also one of the best strategies to attract more people.

Do you have any other program to organize road show outside the State?

We will organize road shows but it would not be good to describe them this time. We have many plans in our mind for which will sit together with our members to finalize them. We will organize road shows which will have more participation than we had in Gujarat. Gujarat road show was just beginning and it would be a regular feature. I would like to thank MD JKTDC Farooq Shah who at that time as Secretary Tourism made every effort to make our program successful. Director Tourism Kashmir Mahmood A Shah and Deputy Director Tourism Publicity Peerzada Zahoor also played pivotal role to make our programs in Gujarat and Mumbai success.