Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, President, The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry appreciated the measures of the State Government for promotion of the tourism sector by giving its charge to Navin Kumar Choudhary, a senior most officer of the State Administration.
The spokesman said that in view of his positive and helpful style of working, the transfer has been widely welcomed by the Travel and Tourism sector. With the stakeholders having high expectations, the Government also needs to create an environment conducive for officers to deliver their best for the revival of this important sector of our economy.
The Tourism sector of the State has suffered the major brunt of vagaries associated with the prevailing situation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir as also various policy changes like the implementation of GST etc. Despite the acknowledgement of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture about the manifold negative impact of GST on the Tourism Sector and recommending a review of the same, no tangible decision has been taken in this regard. The State has while declaring the Tourism Sector as an Industry has been very close-fisted in providing the incentives of the industrial sector to the tourism industry. The announcement of charging of power tariff at par with the industrial sector stands withdrawn within a year.
The State Government and Tourism Players putting their best efforts to attract tourists and limit the damages, frequent closure of the road link and exorbitant airfares have dealt a serious blow to such efforts.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir has not been able to take advantage of the huge potential of the tourism sector. The inbound figures of tourists in 2017-18 are dismal in comparison to other states as detailed below.
Bihar 3.35 Crores, Rajasthan 4.75 Crores, Uttar Pradesh 23.70 Crores, Tamil Nadu 33.83 Crores, Kerala 1.58 Crore and J&K 73 lakhs
Out of the figure of 73 lakhs, only 13.1 lakh tourists have actually visited Kashmir and includes more than 2 lakh Yatri’s visiting the Holy Amarnath Cave. Around sixty lakh visitors are pilgrims visiting the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine and around 2-3 lakh visitors have visited Ladakh. So, in fact, around 10 lakh tourists have visited Kashmir in the year 2017. Around the same number were visiting Kashmir even more than thirty years ago. While as most of the States have been witnessing a steady double-digit percentage growth in the number of inbound tourists, the State of Jammu and Kashmir has been witnessing a downslide. Even the number of pilgrims visiting the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine has witnessed a steady drop. From a peak in the year 2012 of around 103.9 lacs, the year 2017 only attracted 57.40 lacs pilgrims to Katra.
Pilgrim tourism is a major component of major tourist inflow for most of the States and Kashmir with a large number of Sufi Shrines and religious sites hold a huge untapped potential in this regard. The State would also need to consider the sensitive nature of the tourism business and customize security considerations accordingly. Tourism cannot survive if tourists are made to undergo frequent frisking and travel restrictions.
The State Government has indicated its seriousness about the focus on Tourism by making several changes in the Department of Tourism. The KCC&I urges that, in view of a large number of people associated with the Tourism Sector, major policy changes are required for the revival of this sector. The Government would need to provide stability by assigning responsibilities for longer durations to efficient and competent officers and also to provide budgetary support at par with other tourist destination states.