Tourism Goes High-flying In Kashmir

22 November 2015
The Hindu
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: The tourist hotspots of Gulmarg and Pahalgam in Kashmir are now just a sortie away. The helicopter rides are intended to draw high-spending tourists. Flagging off the service here on Sunday, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed described the novel chopper service and air safaris 'as a big initiative'. 'Even though only a small fraction of travellers will take chopper rides initially, it is a big step towards positioning Kashmir as a high-end destination,' he said. 'The service will have a multiplier effect with more and more upmarket travellers preferring chopper travel directly from the airport to the Valley's premier tourist destinations like Gulmarg and Pahalgam to save on time.' Gulmarg is 55 km and Pahalgam 90 km from Srinagar. 'Visitors can reach their destinations in less than 15 minutes now,' the Chief Minister said adding that the initiative would give a fillip to golfing, conferences and adventure tourism. 'Guests can now experience the thrill of a helicopter ride over Pahalgam, Sonmarg and Gulmarg. It will also promote heli-skiing, which has a huge potential in the Kashmir Valley,' he said. Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, MP, while addressing party workers in south Kashmir, said her party would pursue the core agenda of 'resolution, reconciliation and development'. 'Dialogue is the only way' 'Despite odds, the PDP entered into an alliance with the BJP to revive the process of political reconciliation and economic rejuvenation in Jammu and Kashmir, initiated by the PDP-led coalition government in 2002,' Ms. Mufti said. 'There were lessons to be learnt from what is happening in Afghanistan and West Asia. Dialogue is the only way forward. The peace process of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee needs to be carried forward. A political process is important for peace and development,' she said. Referring to the PDP-BJP coalition's common minimum programme, 'Agenda of Alliance', she said the State's present position would be maintained on all the constitutional provisions pertaining to J&K. Ms. Mufti further said that J&K would become the torch-bearer of a reconciliatory process in the region as the State and its people had exhibited maturity and the highest level of religious tolerance even during the worst times of the sub-continent's history.