The third G-20 Tourism Working Group (TWG) got underway at Srinagar with two working sessions, on ‘Film Tourism for Economic Growth and Cultural Preservation’ focusing on strategies to promote film tourism and another session on ‘Eco tourism’.
However, the high profile working group meeting has been marred by the absence of some countries. China, which is locked in a border dispute with India in Eastern Ladakh, pulled out citing that the meeting is being held in a ‘disputed territory’. China has long held a hostile and adversarial position on J&K, challenging India’s sovereignty, which the host country has resoundingly rebuffed on repeated occasions. Other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Indonesia too expressed their inability to participate in the meeting. India’s long-standing ally Egypt, which is a special invitee, chose to send its embassy staff instead of a ministerial level delegation.
Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh said, the very fact that the G20 meeting is being held in Srinagar is in itself an indication of the change that has happened over the last 9 years particularly after the path-breaking initiatives taken.
The two key deliverables of the meeting are the Goa Roadmap for Tourism as a vehicle for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the G20 Tourism Ministers’ Declaration.
The Minister said that it is going to be a full-fledged, wholesome G 20 meeting, like at any other location. This is also an indication of the fact that now Jammu & Kashmir as a whole and especially Kashmir Valley, which was till a few years ago believed to be kind of a nerve centre of terrorism and militancy, is now in the same stream line of activity as any other city in the country.
The Tourism Working Group will be conducting discussions and deliberations on five key priority areas which are, Green Tourism, Digitalization, Skills, MSMEs and Destination Management. Furthermore, delegates will also participate in a side event based on ‘Film Tourism for Economic Growth and Cultural Preservation’, which focuses on strategies to promote film tourism in J&K.
Reports said that a draft National Strategy on Film Tourism will be unveiled to provide a roadmap for harnessing the role of films in promoting tourist destinations and that the meeting aims to strengthen economic growth, preserve cultural heritage, and promote sustainable development in the region.
Officials said, regardless of where the G20 is taking place, it provides an opportunity to promote the region’s cultural legacy on a global scale. The scenario is the same in Jammu and Kashmir. Notably, J&K received the highest number of tourists, around 18.8 million, in 2022.
Officials further said that 300 new tourist destinations will come up in Jammu and Kashmir, seeing the influx of tourists, with each destination providing enough to the tourists.
As part of the meeting delegates will also visit the Art and Craft Bazaar organised by the State Government, which showcases local handicrafts and the work of artisans. They will also have ‘hands-on’ experience through DIY activities at the Craft Bazaar.
Singh further said that it’s not only that India wants to convey a message that things are returning back to normal in Kashmir, it is actually happening. So when the delegates from G20 countries come, many of them visiting Jammu & Kashmir for the first time, and see with their own eyes and try to relate with what has been projected in certain sections of media, they will be able to carry the message and they will be the true messengers of not only Jammu & Kashmir but of India as a whole, as it has emerged over the past few years.