Terrorism, ambushes, violence, security risks just do not take a toll on the lives of civilians. There are other added on problems that the citizens of the region engulfed in terrorism face.
The citizens of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)are facing the worst of times as thousands have lost jobs and wages because the security concern in the state has affected the Tourism Industry. This dreary scenario has developed since the terrorist Burhan Wani’s killing sparked a prolonged chain of violence in the Valley.
Tourism is one of the most important sectors for the economy of J & K. It contributes towards 8% of the state’s GDP. The state employs over 100,000 people, directly and indirectly in the tourism industry, and when this sector takes a hit due to security issues, all these people employed also are affected adversely.
Tourism Graph in J & K
Kashmir has always been symbolic of romance, and has been a favoured destination among the national as well as the international tourists until 1988, with over a 700,000 arrivals. However the scenario took a hit because of the following reasons:
- 1989 saw the beginning of armed violence in the Valley with 1,500 violent incidents which included bomb blasts and firing. This naturally affected the Tourism Industry and the number of arrivals dropped from 700,000 to 200,000.
- The violence only escalated after 1989, and 4,211 and 3,780 violent incidents were reported in the years 1990 and 1991 respectively. This saw the nadir of the tourism industry with the number of tourists dropping to as low as 6,287. This constituted for a 98% decrease in the tourism industry.
- Tourism saw a breath of relief in early 1996 when the violence in the Valley eased and the assembly elections were conducted after eight years of governor’s rule.
- In 1998, over 100,000 visitors arrived in Kashmir.
- However, the respite was short-lived, and the 2001 Parliament attack saw India and Pakistan at the brink of war. The tourism industry was again affected and the number of tourists sharply fell to 27,356.
- India-Pakistan peace talks since 2003 improved matters. Tourist figures climbed steadily to over 1.3 million. But, this time the nature’s wrath created havoc and the floods in 2015 affected the Tourism Industry badly by affecting the inflow of the tourists as well as the infrastructure.
- The killing of the terrorist Burhan Wani in 2016 has now made matters worse for J & K Tourism with a spate of violence across the state.
- Tourism industry is highly sensitive to issues of law and order. When the law and order is not working, tourism is certain to be affected.
- The National media has been swamped with stories of violence in the recent months which is not conducive to tourism.
- Though insurgency rates have declined, there has been a spate of incidents of street violence, mostly stone-pelting.
- Though the tour operators and tourism officials argue that this kind of street violence is too sporadic and localised to affect travellers, the fact remains that it is closer home for comfort and thus tourists are opting to stay away from J & K.
- Most of the tourists who have cancelled their plans to visit J & K have just one reason; they do not want to waste the limited holiday that they get during a year looking over their shoulders.
The Adverse Effects
- Hotel Occupancy in J & K has declined to 25%.
- Locals feel that the media is scaring the tourists away.
- The famed Shikara owners who were earning Rs 1,000-Rs 1,500 a day till the Burhan Wani killing now consider themselves lucky if they make Rs 400 a day.
- Unsold rugs and shawls worth crores of rupees are piling up in godowns because there are no tourists to buy them.
- The tourism sector has taken a further hit with many countries including US, UK, Germany and France issuing travel advisories against Kashmir.
Steps To Promote Tourism By The State Government
The State Government is also concerned over the decline in the tourism industry and is trying to rectify the situation in the following ways:
- The J&K Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) is offering a discount of around 50 per cent in its tour packages.
- Private tour operators are offering a discount up to 30%.
- Tourists will be provided with safety and security by the hotel owners, the transport operators and the administration