Early Times Report
Jammu, May 27: Even though Jammu and Kashmir government has spent crores on its tourism promotional campaign, the ongoing season is set to witness its worst-ever decline in footfall in Kashmir due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
Records reveal that the Tourism Department has spent Rs 3.86 crore on advertisements in national and international media, including newspapers, magazines, and travel journals, to promote J&K’s tourism sector.
As per the report compiled by the Indian Journal of Economics and Development, at present 4.25 lakh people are directly dependent upon tourism in Kashmir. They include owners and employees of local hotels, houseboats, guest houses, restau¬rant dormitories, dak-bungalows, holiday inns and tent houses. They are directly linked with the tourism business in Kashmir.
Further, there are 21 lakh people who are indirectly dependent on Kashmir’s tourism. They include pony-keepers, taxi drivers shikarawalas, helpers, tourist guides, shopkeepers, vendors, and fruit sellers.
Handicrafts sector has a strong base for employment generation in Kashmir. Large number of people in Kashmir are dependent on this sector. As per the government records, there are 507372 establishments in the UT and there are 1084295 artisans throughout J&K consisting of 594090 (55%) hired and 490205 (45.21%) not hired workers. The male workers are 81.34% and the female workers are 18.66% in the state. It includes Carpets, Woolen shawls and Paper Machie which are mostly sold to the tourists who come to Kashmir. It provides employment to 58 percent of population in Kashmir both directly and indirectly.
Meanwhile, the COVID 19 threat and the subsequent lockdown has plunged the one time thriving tourism sector of Kashmir into perturbation, leaving hoteliers, travel operators, artisans, and people associated with the field jobless in droves.
As per the reports, it is feared that the hotels in Kashmir will have zero occupancy this year too with world famous tourist resorts like Gulmarg and Pahalgam to witness desolated look. The threat of COVID19 and its influence on travel is about to cast a very disturbing shadow on the sector, says Altaf Lone, a travel operator based in central Kashmir. He added that the pilgrimage tourism too will be hit this year and that people associated with the trade have to brace for harder days ahead.
Prior to this, the killing of Hizbul militant Burhan Wani and subsequent unrest had caused widespread losses to tourism sector in the year 2016. The government figures reveal that 403442 tourists visited Valley in the first four months of 2016 (till April 31) as compared to 181102 during the corresponding period this year, marking a sharp dip of 56 percent. The tourist footfall was even higher (290154) in April 2015 notwithstanding the fact that the Valley had witnessed devastating floods a few months back.