State hardly invests in tourism, despite earning potential
SRINAGAR: Despite the contribution of the tourism sector to Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) in Jammu and Kashmir rising over the years, the government has failed to lower the budget deficit in the sector, reveals the latest report of NITI Aayog, the primary think tank of the Government of India.
As per the think tank’s ‘Report of Working Group II, Sustainable Tourism in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR)’, the state’s tourism contribution to the GSDP has gone up to more than 7 percent from 6.7 since 2010, although the budget deficit in the sector has spiked to 116 percent, making it the second highest tourism deficit after West Bengal in India.
Out of the less than Rs 50,000 crore budget of the last fiscal, the government has spent more than Rs 14 crore, while it has only generated less than Rs 5 crore. Ironically, the over-spending has no reflection on the improvement of tourism infrastructure in Ladakh, one of the growing IHR destinations in India, as per the report.
The report has found that JK, despite having the fourth highest average arrival of tourists in the 12 Himalayan states of India from 2012-16, and possessing the potential to grow by 8 percent in the next five years, Ladakh has only six hotels with a total room capacity of 127 rooms. Ladakh, the report said, is a water-deficient area and is mostly dependent on snow/glacial melt and Indus River flow. Water consumption per tourist here has not improved.
The report has said that the state hardly invests in tourism, despite the earning potential from the sector. Where has the money been spent? An official from the Tourism Department told Kashmir Reader that the department has spent most of the money on tourism promotion activities, including sending officials on international tours for the promotion of tourism. Destinations have included London, Dubai, Turkey, Moscow, Austria and Berlin, which have taken the major chunk of the money spent.