Of the total 73 lakh tourists, more than 57 lakh were Vaishno Devi pilgrims, 2.6 lakh Amarnath Yatris
SRINAGAR: The year 2017 saw the lowest number of tourists in Jammu & Kashmir in the past six years, and the vast bulk of them comprised pilgrims to the Vaishno Devi and Amarnath shrines. According to the government’s economic survey report that has been tabled in the state assembly, 73 lakh tourists arrived in 2017, compared to 84 lakh in 2016 and 92 lakh in 2015. Among these 73 lakh tourists, more than 57 lakh (57,39,632 to be exact) were pilgrims visiting Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu, and two-lakh sixty-thousand (2,60,003) were Amarnath Yatra pilgrims. Leaving aside the pilgrims, only 13 lakh tourists, which include both foreigners and Indians, visited Jammu & Kashmir.
As per the survey numbers, the maximum tourists in the past six years came in 2012, about 1.25 crore, followed by 1 crore in the subsequent year. In 2014, the year that floods ravaged the Valley in September, more than 95 lakh tourists visited the state.
A report prepared on the impact of Amarnath Yatra has shown that Amarnath pilgrims make the least contribution to Kashmir’s economy in the tourism sector.
Similar ratio of pilgrims to tourists has been recorded in the preceding years, with pilgrims increasing in comparison to tourists.
Last year, businesses associated with tourism in Kashmir spoke several times of the crisis they were facing. Many of them said that the absence of tourists was due to wrong portrayal of Kashmir in the Indian media as a place in thrall of violence and terrorism.
Kashmir sees more Indian tourists than foreigners also because of travel advisories issued by different countries during the 1990 insurgency, which have still not been lifted.
The state could not attract tourists despite the tourism department launching several initiatives to revive tourism. The department has run advertisements on TV channels, organised road shows, hosted actors, singers and film festivals in Kashmir, but their effect has not been the desired one.
A campaign titled ‘Valley Weekend’ was started last year to attract people to various sports and entertainment-related activities through the winter. The activities include marathons, fishing, cycling, skiing, snowshoe running, folk music, rock music, theatre, and poetry recitations. This, as per the tourism industry, has had some impact: tourist arrivals in winter have been better than in the peak tourist season of summer.