BETWEEN January and mid-March, Kashmir has witnessed around seven lakh tourist arrivals as against 1,25000 in the same period last year. But the tourist number is not only disproportionately higher than the last year but a record in the last decade. The numbers are likely to increase further as the Amarnath yatra gets underway in June. Most hotels are booked through the summer with tourist resorts like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Dal lake attracting the most tourists. However, the UT government has now increased the options for tourists by developing more resorts. For example, Aharbal, Yusmarg, Tosamaidan, Gurez, historic old city in Srinagar are finding a prominent place on the tourist map of Kashmir. These places need further development of tourist infrastructure and also wider publicity for people to visit.
A combination of factors has made the tourism boom possible: One, there is this perception across the country that after revocation of Article 370 J&K has been fully integrated into India. Second, Covid-19 fallout which severely reduced the options to go abroad and third the ongoing sweltering summer in the mainland India which has forced people to escape to colder places like Kashmir. The Tourism department has said that an advertising campaign across major Indian cities and the opening of new destinations were also attracting more tourists.
Tourism, one of the mainstays of the Kashmir economy, is one of the sectors that has been hit the hardest. There is a large section of people who have largely been without employment over the last two and a half years. Their savings have already been depleted. This includes also the people associated with tourism. In 2021, many cases of suicides and suicide attempts took place as a result. The major cause of suicide attempts was financial distress in the families caused by the turmoil of the preceding two years and also by the extended successive lockdowns, two of them the result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here’s hoping that with the abating of the pandemic, the economic situation would return to normal, both in the country as well as in Kashmir. This alone will prevent further misery.
The tourism sector forms 6.8 percent of Kashmir’s GDP and employs 2 million people. The sector has the potential to shore up our beleaguered economy. Here’s hoping that things improve from hereon. The waning pandemic wave is once again creating conditions for unhindered tourism in the Valley. This is also the hope of the people associated with the tourist sector. There is reason to believe that there is no fourth Covid wave. The tourists could thus continue visiting Kashmir and help resuscitate the economy and generate jobs.
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