This summer the tourism Industry was pinning its hopes on a record number of tourist arrivals. The optimism that the tourism players were relying on was generated by the bookings that were being witnessed in the first quarter of the current year.
Tourism sector as we all know has received a drubbing once again and the people associated with it were pinning its hopes on the winds of change that were expected to make a mark this year.
This year however, tourist arrivals had started picking up in the Kashmir Valley. Officials claimed that they have already received advance bookings and were also expecting a good increase in tourist footfalls from March-end onwards with the opening of Tulip Garden early during the year.
The Tourism Department too had done its bit as the department had conducted an extensive country-wide promotional campaign ahead of the tourist season to attract tourists to the Valley.
Private tourism players of Kashmir actively participated in the campaign that included participation in travel marts and road shows in different states of the country. Last year, in December, leading travel agents of the country had been invited to the Valley on a ‘Fam Tour’ in an effort to woo more tourists.
The department also planned a ‘Fam Tour’ of various tour operators to Kargil so that new and unexplored areas could be identified for tourism promotion.
Tourism and unrest in Kashmir have been directly interlinked. Unrest in Kashmir during 2016 caused a dip in tourist arrivals by over 55 percent with only 4, 03,442 tourists visiting Kashmir during 2016.
However, the number of tourist arrival is 55 percent lesser than the corresponding year 2015 which witnessed 9, 17,815 tourist arrivals. In the second quarter of 2016-17 revenue in tourism sector was 80 percent less (Rs 7.5 crore) compared to revenue realization in the second quarter of 2015-16.
This downtrend in revenue and the footfall in the tourism sector does not augur well for the state in general and the people of Kashmir Valley in particular. The people in the Valley are mostly dependent on tourism and once the Industry thrives so does our economy and the small trader who falls last on the chain of beneficiaries.
However, the situation in the Kashmir Valley is a clear indication that the tourism sector is all set to experience yet another jolt in 2017. What is more worrisome is the fact that many private news channels have taken up the task of promoting unrest in Kashmir at such a massive level that the common man who has no knowledge about Kashmir and the political unrest thinks a thousand times before he actually takes a decision of coming to Kashmir.
This trend is more annoying as the outside media it seems is working on some agenda. An agenda that needs to be exposed and brought into the open. But for doing this the various stakeholders of the tourism Industry need to work in unison.