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Heaven on Earth

Jammu and Kashmir’s natural landscape has made it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world



Published: Thu 6 Jan 2022, 10:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 6 Jan 2022, 10:02 AM

Tourism is considered to be an economic bonanza for the UT of J&K because industrial development is very limited to hilly terrains. The region is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, making it North India’s most visited tourist destination. The delightful backwaters, hill stations and landscape make J&K a beautiful tourist destination. Historical monuments, forts, places of religious importance, hill resorts, etc. add to the grandeur of the state. According to the Economic Survey 2019-20 report, the service sector, specifically tourism, has emerged as the biggest contributor to the state’s gross development product (SGDP) of J&K, placing it at number eight among the top 10 states and union territories where service sector’s contribution to SGDP is more than 58 per cent, especially due to tourism. With millions of tourists visiting Kashmir every year, tourism sector’s contribution to the SGDP comes in at 58.3 per cent.

Tourism sector’s contribution to J&K gross state domestic product (GSDP) is 6.98 per cent. Jammu is famous for its temples, while the Kashmir Valley is known for its scenic beauty. The tourism sector in the UT has a huge employment potential for skilled persons as well as for people without any specialised skills such as guides, sledge-wallas, pony-wallas, etc. Major tourist attractions include the Tulip Garden — which is Asia’s largest tulip garden containing 13 lakh Tulips — Chashma Shahi Springs, Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh and the Dal Lake in Srinagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Doodhpathri, Sonamarg in the Kashmir Valley and Vaishno Devi temple and Patnitop near Jammu. J&K also has the largest green golf course in the world — Royal Springs Golf course— with 18 holes and also has the highest gondola in the world.

The latest footfall figures show that the tourism sector has retained its hold over visitors from within the country and abroad. Against 1,88,702 visitors in October 2020, 7,29,175 visited Jammu in January 2021. Similarly, 2697 visited Kashmir in October 2020 and 19102 travelled in January 2021. Post relaxation in Covid-19, December 2020 recorded the highest number of 13237 tourists in Kashmir, which is 39 per cent of the total footfall in the entire year. Besides, 4,66,246 pilgrim tourists visited Jammu in the same period. In 2019, foreign and domestic tourist arrivals stood at 57,920 and 16.16 million respectively

The Department of Tourism of J&K has also launched aero-ballooning to boost the influx of tourists. Total tourist arrivals to the UT reached 16.22 million in 2019, of which 16.16 million were domestic tourists and 57,920 were foreign tourists. In September 2020, a Rs. 1,350 crore ($182.83 million) economic package was announced in Jammu Kashmir to boost tourism and other sectors.

Strengths:

One of the most visited North Indian state

50 thousand international and 9.5 million domestic tourists (2017)

India’s best skiing destination — Gulmarg

All year-round festivals like Tulip, Srinagar and Navratri Festival, Katra

Surrounded by majestic snow peaks, ideal for heli-skiing, snowboarding

Opportunities:

Perfect destinations for film shooting like Doodhpathri, Dallake, Pahalgam, Patnitop, etc

Ideal sites for adventure tourism, spiritual tourism and eco-tourism

Connectivity:

Commercial airports operating 40+ flights

Night flight facilities from Jammu and Srinagar

50+ trains cross through UT major rail junctions

Double line rail connectivity

Marked by four distinct seasons, Kashmiri’s natural landscape has made it one of the most popular destinations for adventure tourism in South Asia. Ski enthusiasts can enjoy the exotic Himalayan powder snow during winters. Located approximately 52kms away from the capital city Srinagar, ‘Meadow of Flowers’ as it is popularly called, Gulmarg is a haven for adventure enthusiasts. Along with prominent skiing options, trekking, snowboarding, golfing, mount biking and fishing are the prime options. Jammu is called the ‘City of Temples’, due to its many ancient temples, Hindu shrines, gardens and forts. The Hindu holy shrine of Amarnath in Kashmir attracts millions of Hindu devotees every year and the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu region also attracts tens of thousands of Hindu devotees every year. The unmatched divinity at Raghunath temple, Ranbireshwar temple, Mahamaya temple, Peer Baba and Peer Khoh reaches every corner of Jammu and invigorates visitors.

Jammu’s historic monuments feature a unique blend of Islamic and Hindu architecture styles. Another place worth visiting is the Bahu temple, which is situated inside the majestic Bahu Fort. The temple is dedicated to the presiding deity of Jammu, Goddess Kali or ‘Bawe Wali Mata’ as she is popularly called in the region. Besides the temple, a travel enthusiast can witness the architectural grandeur of Bahu Fort and Mubarak Mandi Palace. The aquarium at Bagh-e-Bahu — Bahu Fort also catches the eyes of the tourists as it is the largest underground aquarium in the country.

Tourism has played an important role for developing the economy, particularly of J&K. As tourism is a labour-intensive industry, it has resulted in job creation and generated a lot of economic activities in primary, secondary and tertiary sectors in the state. Visitor spending generates income for both public and private sectors, besides effecting wages and employment opportunities. Tourism acts as a catalyst in the development of backward and far-flung regions which attract tourists. These include remote regions of the state like Lolab and Bangus valley in Kupwara, Suru valley in Kargil, Daksum valley in Anantnag, Gurez valley in Baramulla, which are known for their scenic beauty and charming climate. In fact, they possess far greater tourist potential than those offered by famous destinations like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Mughal gardens. Tourists visiting such unexplored attractive spots can give boost to the economic condition of the residents by promoting local art like handicrafts, handlooms, cricket bat industry and Ayurveda

J&K provides great opportunities for investors in tourism sector as tourism is flourishing in the valley day by day. It provides opportunities for investors to invest in the construction of amusement parks, recreation gardens, hotels and restaurants. This would also help in the influx of more tourists in the valley in coming years. Establishing a coordinating group at the local community level would greatly help investors to invest in the tourism destinations. NPCS’s project consultancy and market research fields put forward the emerging scope for the development of tourism industry in Kashmir.

Government of Jammu and Kashmir has launched the J&K Tourist Village Network initiative which aims at rejuvenating and transforming more than 75 villages in the Union Territory and promoting tourism and sustainable employment for the youth. The initiative, launched under ‘Mission Youth’, will work towards giving a facelift to the 75 villages in the UT that are already famous for their history, picturesque beauty and cultural importance.

The government has also announced a Rs3 crore relief package for tourism industry to overcome the losses suffered during Covid-19. A financial assistance of Rs2,000 each is being provided to 4,444 registered shikara owners, 1,370 tourist guides, 6,663 pony-walas and 2,150 others, including palki-wallas at the shrines of Amarnath and Vaishno Devi.

-— Source: Department of Industries and Commerce, Jammu and Kashmir


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