FAM Tour of J&K Tourism

  • KANIKA GUPTA
  • Publish Date: Dec 9 2018 12:12PM
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  • Updated Date: Dec 9 2018 12:12PM
FAM Tour of J&K TourismFile Photo

Kashmir Familiarisation Tour 2018 was a right step in the right direction but it went wrong at so many levels that I, as a delegate, felt the need to bring it up.

As a solo travel blogger, I have travelled through the length and breadth of Kashmir and never once felt unsafe or unwelcomed. I have also worked extensively with the former Director Tourism in exploring hidden parts of the valley and promoting it via my blog and social media channels.

So, when I was invited for an opportunity to attend a formal event that was geared towards promoting Kashmir tourism, I gladly accepted it. I was proud to be a state guest, representing the solo travel bloggers in my own right. Everything seemed to be going perfectly. We loved the warm welcome and high tea set in the sprawling golf course of Srinagar, giving us an opportunity to meet industry professionals all working towards removing the blemish from Kashmir’s tourism.

The tour was organized with utmost precision and highest levels of hospitality, exposure to local culture via cultural programs, property visits, and interaction with people from different trades. From that vantage point it may have been a success as a networking event. But was the familiarization tour really successful in familiarizing people with Kashmir’s unique selling points? Hardly.

With 70-plus delegates from all parts of the country and different walks of life, J&K Tourism’s effort in spreading the message of travel safety in Kashmir could have been easily achieved. However, the objective of the FAM tour got obscured as each one of these industry niches came with a different agenda.

As the days progressed, we could already sense the divide in opinions, people complaining about lack of common interest, too many opinions, and too many groups stopped being conducive after the second day.

Even though I could see the hard work that the department had put in to bring so many people together in a highly publicized event, I felt that the group was too diverse to help the department reach a common goal. Had this been organized industry and interest wise, the FAM tour could have been a completely different story.

However, despite all the things that went wrong, there were also few that went well for the travel industry professionals. According to 27-year-old travel & lifestyle blogger, Satpreet Kaur, Kashmir was her second visit and she was happy to explore more untapped and upcoming tourist spots that she was happy to talk about through her social media channels. She also pointed out that while tourism department’s hospitality was on-point, they should have shown the people its different and unique side that would make people visit Kashmir and come back for more.

Another delegate, SnehaJagiasi, Ms. Tourism India 2015-16, was incredibly impressed with the arrangements. She said, “overall managing a group of 100 people or so is itself a task so no complaints. All I would like to say is that Kashmir is so much more than its gardens, it is an experience in itself.” She recommends the tourism officials to involve more interaction with the locals in their forthcoming events to help visitors get a real taste of Kashmiriyat and its hospitable nature.

It may have been an expansive event meant to achieve a lot more than it did, but the one place FAM tour failed to unleash its magic was in choosing the participants for this event. Its biggest strategy of bringing all the industry professionals together, in my opinion, backfired miserably. My interaction with fellow bloggers who have worked with several other tourism departments revealed that FAM tours are usually much smaller in size and cater to a specific niche. All the participants work in close coordination to promote the tourism in an organic way.

What J&K Tourism could have done differently and should definitely incorporate in their upcoming tours is learning from their mistakes and making it a more niche event than a diversified one. It can be much smaller in size, satisfying a particular group, showing them what they want to see and as per their target audience.

On the opening day of the JK Tourism FAM Autumn Tour, the host at the event rightly pointed out that Jammu and Kashmir is like Mini-India, holding in itself such varied cultures. With Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh in its folds, I couldn’t disagree with this statement. However, it would take many more such concentrated and persistent efforts to really do the trick with the state’s tourism that is suffering at the hands of negative media portrayal. Political situation aside, Kashmir remains one of the safest places to travel.