Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], June 24 (ANI): With the Covid-19 situation in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir showing an improvement, its administration is organising capacity building program for Shikara operators of Dal Lake to revive tourism in Kashmir.
The Department of Tourism recently organized a program for Shikara and houseboat owners of the famous Dal Lake.
Sarmad Hafeez, the secretary of the Department of Tourism of Jammu and Kashmir said, "We are trying to train traders, including these Shikara owners, on how to follow proper SOPs through this program. The program is not limited to Dal Lake only, all traders at every tourist destination in the UT are being trained for the same"
"The program is aimed at spreading a message across the world that Kashmir is safe and that the tourism bodies are now ready to welcome tourists," he added.
Lauding the department's efforts, Wali Mohamad, the president of Shikara Owners Association said, "Such programs should be conducted regularly, and the tourism of the UT should be promoted further."
He told ANI that all the Shikara and houseboat owners have now been vaccinated and that the Dal Lake is completely safe for tourists to visit.
"The program is a very nice initiative; it does not only remind us time and again of the essence of wearing a mask, but also helps you to understand how tourism in this new normal will be like," he added.
Dal Lake is one of the precious heritages which attract thousands of tourists from across the world every year. The tourists visiting the lake prefer enjoying the Shikara ride and to spend a few days in the unique houseboats.
Mohamad Yaqoob Dar, a Shikara owner added, "We have cleaned the Dal Lake too, to ensure that the tourists experience the view of heaven, without having to worry about the hygiene here."
During the capacity-building program, organised by the department of tourism in the middle of Dal Lake, a number of skits and musical activities were performed by the local artists in front of the officials. More than 250 Shikara and houseboat owners also attended the program.
"During the program, all activities were based on increasing awareness regarding the Covid protocols so that everyone, including the tourists and dwellers, feels safe and comfortable," he said.
Ghulam Ahmad Kalloo, a houseboat owner said, "This year during winter and after that in the month of March when the government organizes the tulip show, the tourism season was at its peak. Tourism players including the tour and travel operators, Shikara, and houseboat owners were very happy. But unfortunately, due to the second wave of COVID-19, maximum bookings for summer season got cancelled and the tourism sector was hit again badly."
Kalloo hopes that the upcoming tourist season is a good one for them. "Now that the situation is improving and the cases are declining day by day, we are hoping for a better business."
He also mentioned that with the help of susstained efforts of the government, all the Shikara and houseboat owners were Covid vaccinated, and are conscious of protecting themselves from the infection. (ANI)