Jammu: The Vaishnodevi shrine is expected to witness a foot-fall of two million pilgrims during this year’s Navratri festival beginning September 21, officials said.
The tourism department, in collaboration with various NGOs and private parties, have planned a series of events over the 9-day festival period to attract tourists from across India.
Minister of State for Tourism, Priya Sethi, is set to unveiled the calendar of activities at the Sidhra Golf Course. The Navratra festival is an annual festival in Jammu region.
“We have put in place all the arrangements for a mega 9-day long Navratra festival in the region particularly at the Katra, base camp of cave shrine of Mata Vaishnodevi. After many years, this year’s festival will be a mega one to attract the pilgrims and tourists from across the world,” Sethi said.
“Last year, a total of 77 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine to pay their obeisance. This year, we have 57 lakh tourist arrivals at the shrine so far but we are expecting over 20 lakh more tourists during the Navratra festival,” Director of Tourism Jammu Smita Sethi told PTI.
She said this year the department was expecting a record number of tourist arrivals in Jammu region but “we are trying to make them stay for a few days so that the local economy gets a boost”.
Tourism department has been organising events during Navratra festival at Katra since 1996. This year’s festival, scheduled to begin on September 21, would feature a grand ‘Shobha’ yatra on the first day, followed by various programmes, including an international wrestling competition for men and women.
Participants from Belarusia, Ukraine and Georgia besides Kashmiri and Indian wrestlers are participating in the competition.
“The festival provides us with an opportunity to project the tourism sector in a major way and the government has decided to cash on it to woo holidaymakers from outside the state,” the director said.
“Tourists leaving the state in a hurry is affecting our tourism industry. Our main effort is that if a tourist comes here, he or she should stay back for a few days and for that we are projecting several places of religious importance,” she said.
Sethi said that hotel industry was “complaining that we are not getting enough guests”, so the department has planned to address this issue through the festival, the director said.