Efficiency of spending is one of the key parameters of deft and prudent management. But, Jammu and Kashmir’s tourism department, besides being a kind of a behemoth that is wasteful and inefficient flounders even on this parameter. It has been found out that the Kashmir Valley has failed to attract tourists for the past three years, despite the government spending more than Rs 5 crore on tourism promotion activities.
The highest number of tourist arrivals was in 2014, a year in which tourism was affected by the floods that broke out in September. Since 2016, the government has sent officials on seven international tours for the promotion of tourism, spending about Rs 58 lakh on them. The tours have been made twice to London and once to Dubai, Turkey, Moscow, Austria, and Berlin. But, there have been no tourist arrivals from these countries. The inference that can be drawn from these patterns and numbers is that the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism department is not engaging in wasteful expenditure which does not fetch any meaningful returns but also perhaps foreign trips for officials might be subsidized again for no other reason than leisure of the officials involved, if the benchmark employed here would be the number of tourist arrivals to Kashmir from the countries visited. The net result of all this is that tourist flows into Kashmir dwindle and tourism suffers thereby negatively impacting and impinging upon a sector that constitutes a significant chunk of Jammu and Kashmir Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). This assumes significance at a time when negative portrayals of Kashmir by certain media houses compound the problem. The inertia of the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism department means that there is not even a rearguard action on part of departments that are supposed to be at the vanguard. The question is: can this grave issue be addressed? The answer is: it depends. The wild card is the tourism department which , not only needs to clean its Augean stables, but also get its act together. It must streamline all its activities and render its core services more targeted, efficient and effective. If the department cannot or actually fails to do so, then perhaps the tourism aspect of the administration, can be outsourced to organizations or people which can do the job the best. Tourism constitutes the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy; all efforts must be done to revive, rejig and rejuvenate it even if it means making hard choices and decisions, especially in terms of the tourism department.