Sheikh Manzoor Ahmed
The Kashmir valley, known as paradise on earth, has become the world’s favorite tourism destination and has emerged as a popular spot for domestic as well as foreign tourists. This season was a golden period of tourism in the vale of Kashmir where more than 1.2 million domestic and foreign tourists visited till early August, breaking all previous records. However, some officials claim that the number is much higher and has even crossed over two million.
More than 45 flights were operating from Srinagar to Delhi and other parts of the country daily to carry over eight to ten thousand tourists. In fact, direct flight from Srinagar to Sharjah was also started but Pakistan did not give it permission to use its air space and was suspended for some time. Similarly, thousands used to travel through private vehicles and luxury buses. The unprecedented rush of visitors saw all hotels, rest houses, and tourist huts fully booked for months. Due to Covid and unfavorable political climate people of Jammu and Kashmir suffered enormously economically. Traders and business sectors incurred losses worth several billion dollars. But heavy tourist rush has greatly helped in improving the economy of the Union territory. More than 30 percent of the population is directly and indirectly connected with the tourism industry.
Federal State Interior Minister Nityanad Rai told Parliament recently that more than 10 million tourists visited Jammu and Kashmir and this includes pilgrim tourists of the famous Vaishnav Devi temple and Amarnath cave in the Kashmir valley. He said that During the first six months of this year tourist footfall in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has increased significantly. Tourism Department officials claimed that 1.2 million people purely came for tourism purposes to visit Tulip garden as well as famous tourist spots of Gulmarg and Pahalgam besides the Moghul gardens.
The authorities have also identified 75 off-beat destinations for tourism across Jammu and Kashmir in order to attract5 pri9vate investors to invest in the development of infrastructure. The tourism industry has been already given the status of the industry. The government has started work on the expansion of Srinagar and Jammu airports to provide better facilities to passengers. A premium lounge has also been approved for the Srinagar airport. The Road and Transport ministry has decided to spend over 500 million dollars on the development of the Srinagar ring to ease traffic pressure on the arterial roads.
In February a high-level delegation of investors of the UAE visited Jammu and Kashmir and showed keen interest in making investments in the tourism sector like constructing hotels and amusement parks. The delegation included LuluGroup Chairman Yousaf Ali, DP World Group Chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem and Emaar Properties chairman Muhammed Ali Alabbar. The UAE businessmen are keen to invest heavily in tourism, horticulture, and the hotel industry.
Also published on Medium.