Augment Tourist Inflows

Augment Tourist Inflows
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It might be an exaggeration to state that tourism constitutes the mainstay of the economy of Kashmir. How much this sector contributes to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of Jammu and Kashmir is besides the point. What is pertinent to note that tourism provides employment, revenues and business to scores of people here. There are allied sectors like handicrafts which stand to benefit from the tourist flow to Kashmir. However, over the past couple of years or so, tourist inflows into Kashmir have witnessed a drastic decrease. The flow has actually become a trickle and thereby affected the livelihoods of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people, if the “multiplier and spillover” effects are taken into account. The question is: what accounts for and explains the drastic reduction of tourist inflows into Kashmir? It cannot only or merely be the conflict. The conflict in and over Kashmir is a constant and not a variable; it will remain as far as the eye can see, so to speak and till primary stakeholders to the conflict enter into a far reaching dialogue and institute a genuine conflict resolution paradigm. Both prudence and pragmatism then demand that tourist activity must be promoted and encouraged even under the constraints and the straitjacket of conflict. It is important to note here that during the past almost three decades of the militarization of the conflict, tourists as a class have neither been hurt nor harmed. So, the explanatory factors lie elsewhere. These are to be premised on the anti Kashmir narrative that has been crafted and trotted out by some media houses in New Delhi. These media houses, in the obvious quest for ratings and eyeball shares and perhaps some other ulterior agendas have painted a very grim and bleak portrait of Kashmir. The results and consequences are for all to see. This, however, does not exonerate the Tourism department of Jammu and Kashmir. The department has been consistently and continuously caught on the back foot and its efforts to promote , encourage and draw tourist inflow into Kashmir, have been tepid, to say the least. How, the question now is, can tourism into Kashmir be made more vibrant under the given constraints? One measure and step might be to invite and hire international tourism promotion firms into Kashmir and let them craft a narrative about Kashmir which corresponds to reality. In this schema, promotion of Kashmir’s culture and the hospital nature of Kashmiris could be a useful starting point complemented by statistics about the well being and generous treatment of tourists by Kashmiris and in Kashmir. The effort, which must be aggressive and targeted, will cost money but, if the administration is actually sincere in increasing tourist flows to Kashmir, will be worth every paisa.

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