BETWEEN January and June, Jammu and Kashmir witnessed arrivals of around 10.6 million tourists. Up to 10,000 people — mostly from other parts of India — are arriving on some 100 flights a day to the airport in Srinagar. But the tourist number is not only disproportionately higher than the last year but a record in the last decade. Official figures show that just over 41,000 people visited Kashmir in all of 2020. 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 the 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 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 over the two years following the abrogation of Article 370 with successive Covid -19 lockdowns also crushing the sector. As a result, a large section of people was largely without employment. 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.
The tourism sector forms 6.8 percent of Kashmir’s GDP and employs two million people. The sector has the potential to shore up our beleaguered economy. Here’s hoping that things improve from hereon. The waning pandemic has created 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 are no more Covid waves. Tourists could thus continue visiting Kashmir and help resuscitate the economy and generate jobs.
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