Buoyed by the record footfall of tourists during the first six months of this year, the Jammu and Kashmir Government is exploring all possibilities to develop the Union Territory as the "tourist capital" of India.

Jammu and Kashmir in general and Kashmir Valley, in particular, are witnessing a record of tourists this year. After a slump of three years, J&K, during the first six months of this year, recorded the highest number of tourists in the last 20 years.

The boom has come as a ray of hope to recover losses of the past three years, which was triggered by the February 2019 suicide attack in South Kashmir's Pulwama killing around 40 CRPF personnel.

J&K's lost glory restored, tourism revived; a promise of peace, progress, prosperity [details]
J&K's lost glory restored, tourism revived; a promise of peace, progress, prosperity

After the abrogation of Article 370, followed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector was badly affected in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, things took a positive turn in January 2021 and changed the tourism sector when the national-level Winter Sports Khelo India Games were held in picturesque Gulmarg Kashmir. Another aspect that further gave a boost to tourism was the unprecedented amount of snowfall and several Bollywood production houses shooting in the Valley.

One-crore tourists visited J&K in six months: Minister

Union Minister for Tourism G Kishan Reddy said over one crore tourists have visited Jammu and Kashmir in the first six months of 2022.

The Minister told the Parliament on July 31, "As a result of the initiatives taken by the J&K Government in private as well as government sectors, there has been a significant hike in the tourist footfall despite COVID challenges."

In 2020, the tourist footfall was 41,267, which has gone up to 1.05 crore during the first six months (January-June) of 2022.

"J&K has seen tourist flow in all seasons during the period. Most of them were high-end tourists, who have a good experience of quality services," he said.

tourism jammu kashmir demonetisation rupees unrest violence terror pakistan
Tourists and skiers ski on a slope in Gulmarg(representational image).Reuters file

"This high influx of tourists has, directly and indirectly, benefited the local people, including those living in far-flung areas, and has resulted in an investment of Rs 248.86 crore in the tourism sector, including hotels, guest houses, house boats, home stays or other services," the minister said.

The UT administration has also taken up several infrastructure developmental projects under various Central-sponsored schemes with a total allocation of Rs 683.45 crore in the past three years, Reddy said.

"More than 1,500 rooms have been registered in the hospitality sector since 2019 in addition to the registration of other service providers and a large number are in the process of registration," he said.

Tourism in J&K
J&K Tourism Department

New initiatives for the tourism sector in J&K

Recently, J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha chaired a high-level meeting to review the new initiatives of the Tourism Department. The LG sought a detailed report on home-stays, setting up of tented accommodation at major tourist attractions, adventure activities, new trekking routes identified, border tourism, and capacity-building programmes at various levels.

While reviewing the measures taken to promote home stays in the UT, the chair was informed that around 800 homestays are registered with the Tourism Department.

The Lt Governor directed Secretary Tourism, Sarmad Hafeez to submit a report on the number of tourists staying at these home-stays, and set the target of enhancing the capacities of home-stays to 25,000 beds by 31st December.

The tourism department was instructed to identify major tourist attractions where tented accommodation can be developed through a public-private partnership.

Since home-stays and tented accommodations are becoming popular among domestic and foreign tourists as well as backpackers, the J&K government is making efforts to promote tent stays at scenic locations that will deliver rapid growth to the tourism industry, added the Lt Governor.

LG Manoj Sinha

It was informed that around 30 locations were already identified and the department was directed to make the tented colonies functional at these locations in the next three months.

Sarmad Hafeez, Secretary to the Government, Tourism Department gave a detailed presentation on the Activity Plan for 75 Offbeat Destinations identified by the Tourism Department, which are being developed with proper infrastructure and requisite facilities for the tourists.

The Lt Governor directed the officials to ensure public conveniences, utilities, parking facilities, sanitation facilities, cleanliness, signage, and toilet units, besides activities for the tourists at all tourist places.

The department was further advised to explore the possibility of setting up pre-paid taxi counters at various tourist locations to address the issue of over-charging.

Reviewing the ongoing works under the Capex budget of the Tourism directorate, the Lt Governor asked the department to adopt a result-oriented and outcome-based approach at the planning stage for the effective execution of the projects.

On Swadesh Darshan 2.0, it was informed that five Tourist Destinations, three in Jammu & two in Kashmir Division viz:- Wular Lake and adjoining areas, Tosamaidan-Doodhpathri, Surinsar-Mansar, Basohli-Sarthal, and Bhaderwah have been sent to the Government of India.

Key highlights of J&K tourism facts

  1. 79,15,536 tourists visited J&K from October 2021 to March 2022.
  2. Passenger footfall at Srinagar airport in December 2021 was 3,24,415.
  3. Jammu airport recorded the highest passenger footfall in December 2021.
  4. Srinagar-Sharjah direct flight introduced.
  5. Boost to Trade and Tourism.
  6. Easy cargo movement of horticultural produce.
  7. International cargo terminal coming up in Srinagar.
  8. Night flight operations started from J&K.
  9. VAT on aviation turbine fuel was reduced to 1%.
  10. Runway expansion at Jammu Airport completed.
  11. 75 offbeat tourist destinations are being developed.
  12. Grand festivals like Houseboat festival, Sufi festival, Literary Festival, and various other events are organised across J&K.
  13. All major tourist destinations remained open during winters.