As the 3rd Tourism Working Group Meeting kicked off on May 22 with the participation of over 60 delegates from various countries, film tourism took the centre stage on the inaugural day. Speaking on the sidelines of the meet, Information & Broadcast Secretary Apurva Chandra said that more than 404 films, TV serials and advertisements were permitted for shooting Kashmir in the past two years.
Furthermore, there is a noticeable increase in the number of direct flights to Srinagar, with nearly 40 flights operating at full capacity. Interestingly, the flight rates from Delhi to Srinagar are higher compared to flights from Delhi to Mumbai, shared Chandra, indicating a growing influx of people. This, he added, would mean more films are expected to be produced in Kashmir in the coming year.
According to Chandra, this also represents a significant shift while it also presents the opportunity to the younger generation that has not witnessed the Kashmir of the 1980s. Additionally, Kashmir witnessed the highest influx of tourism last year recording almost 1.88 crore visitors to the region. Chandra believes that this marks the beginning of a prosperous era for filming in Kashmir, indicating a promising future for the region’s film industry.
As the connectivity enhances and more infrastructural developments take place, buoyed by the record visitations in Kashmir last year, the tourism footfalls are expected to cross two crore this year, which in turn will have a very positive effect on the economy with generation of more employment opportunities, he affirmed.
Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Jitendra Singh said that the 3rd Tourism Working Group Meeting along with its side events will create job opportunities for the youth of Jammu and Kashmir as the new and peaceful Jammu and Kashmir is attracting the filmmakers not only from India but across the world due to its pristine beauty.
Addressing the side event on ‘Film Tourism for Economic Growth and Cultural Preservation’ at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) on May 22, Singh acknowledged that the youth of Kashmir are ambitious, perceptive, and future-oriented individuals who recognise the immense opportunities provided to them.
Singh said that this is the best time happening in Jammu and Kashmir as such events will have a multifarious enrichment for the U/T.
He further stated that Kashmir is poised to become the most lucrative, cost-effective and economically viable film destination.
India’s G20 Sherpa, Amitabh Kant, who welcomed the delegates during the G20 meeting expressed that Kashmir is an exceptional location for shooting movies. He said that Kashmir surpasses other destinations worldwide in terms of its suitability for shooting romantic movies and further affirmed that the governments of India and Kashmir would extend support to international filmmakers by facilitating film shoot locations and encouraging them to choose Kashmir as their preferred destination.
The G20 Sherpa stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi recognises tourism as the most impactful catalyst for job creation and reiterated that this meeting will contribute to further employment opportunities in Jammu and Kashmir.
Speaking on the occasion, Union Tourism, Culture and DoNER Minister, G Kishan Reddy said that film tourism is a powerful medium to promote tourism potential as films have a great impact on the travel choices attracting tourists all over the world.
Reddy emphasised the emergence of film tourism as a potent tool for promoting tourism in the country. He also stated that the government is currently devising a comprehensive strategy to foster the growth of film tourism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Further referring to Kalhana’s Rajtarangini, the minister mentioned how the lakes of Srinagar have always attracted the presence of gods and captured the imagination of artists, nature enthusiasts, and now the filmmakers who aim to revive the film industry in Jammu and Kashmir.
Numerous renowned national and international films have been shot in the region, and the government’s primary objective is to revitalise film tourism not only in Kashmir but throughout the entire country, he added.
He also recalled and acknowledged the historic moment of India winning two Oscars this year, specifically for the ‘Naatu Naatu Song’ and ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ documentary, which greatly acclaimed the country’s achievements in the film industry.
Besides the unveiling of the Draft National Strategy for Film Tourism, another highlight of the TWG meeting was the presence of Indian film actor, producer and entrepreneur, K. Ram Charan. He took part in fireside conversation with film critic, Mayank Sharma and spoke in detail about the beauty of Kashmir being magical.
Amid heightened three-tier security grid, the third Tourism Working Group Meeting of the G20 commenced in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir on May 22. Delegates and representatives from seven countries, including Spain, Singapore and Mauritius, have gathered to discuss and emphasise five major priority areas: Green Tourism, Digitalisation, Skills, MSMEs, and Destination Management, besides major discussions on film tourism and ecotourism.
Notably, this event also marks the first significant international gathering in Jammu and Kashmir since the revocation of its special status in 2019.
During a press conference on May 21, Arun Mehta, Chief Secretary of J&K had also spoken about the visible transformation in the region with the record-breaking influx of tourists in 2022. Acknowledging these growing numbers of tourists, Mehta further revealed plans to develop 300 new tourist destinations in Jammu and Kashmir, supported by the fact that estimated 20 million tourists are anticipated to visit Jammu and Kashmir this year.
Adding to this, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Chief Coordinator G20 said that the focus is not just on increasing the numbers but also on enhancing the value by promoting eco-tourism, film tourism, and adventure tourism. Moreover, the goal is to attract more foreign tourists to Jammu and Kashmir, with the G20 meeting expected to create significant attention towards this objective, he added.
The ongoing G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Srinagar is scheduled till May 24 and is focused on enhancing economic growth, safeguarding cultural heritage, and fostering sustainable development in the region.
The Ministry of Tourism along with the tourism stakeholders, is currently interacting with the delegates from G20 member countries, invited countries and international organisations, aiming to collaborate towards the progress of the tourism sector and the attainment of the UN sustainable development goals by 2030.