In an exclusive conversation with ETTravelWorld shortly after his transition to the health and medical education department, Dr Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, the former tourism and culture secretary, reflected on the strategic initiatives undertaken and notable achievements in the last year or so.
“One of the key lessons that I learnt as Secretary Tourism, is that in the future, sustainable tourism is going to be a very important element of the growth and development of the tourism sector. Involvement of the stakeholders, particularly the young population of our country, in the livelihood opportunities provided by the tourism sector is paramount,” he said. He stressed the need to showcase Jammu and Kashmir’ tourism potential globally, aiming to position the region as a hub for sustainable and responsible tourism.
“If the recent trends are any indication, this sector will only grow from strength to strength in times to come. The contribution of tourism in the GSDP of the J & K economy and the number of jobs related to the sector will automatically see an increase in the years to come,” said Shah.
He also highlighted the recent surge in tourist footfall, reaching a historic high of 2.11 crores in a single year, and the significant impact of hosting the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting.
“The successful implementation of the G20 event proved to be a watershed moment for the tourism sector of Jammu and Kashmir. It resulted in an almost 3 time increase in the number of foreign tourist arrivals in J&K,” he told ETTravelWorld. Shah outlined other major successes, including the promotion of offbeat destinations, a focus on sustainable tourism through home stays, boosting border tourism, reviving film tourism, promoting golf tourism, emphasising cultural tourism, and democratising the sector by involving youth in remote areas with tourism and allied activities.
Now appointed as the Secretary for the Health & Medical Education Department, Shah had previously overseen the successful implementation of an important World Bank project in J&K and served as the Mission Director for the prestigious Jal Jeevan Mission.
He is replaced by Yasha Mudgul, an IAS officer of the 2007 batch who was recently serving as the Commissioner/Secretary to the Government for the Cooperatives Department, before taking over the helm.