The latest recommendation from the Union tourism ministry regarding expansion of the tourism sector in Jammu & Kashmir may well serve as a kickstarter for the beleagured industry, but the Centre needs to go beyond the vision to restore the lost glory of Kashmir as a holidayers’ haven. In its latest report titled ‘20 years of perspective and sustainable tourism in J&K,’ the ministry states that there is a need for expansion of Srinagar airport, state airline service as well as helicopter taxi service, besides developing Srinagar airport as an international hub of air traffic.
After the scary 2014 floods where experts pinned losses up to 1 lakh crore, every kind of business has ceased to exist. The business sector got a few hundred crores by way of compensation, but it was in no way sufficient to cover the losses.
One of the worst hit sectors was tourism where hoteliers fired over 50,000 employees after their occupancy fell below 15 per cent. The year 2015 witnessed a fall of 2 lakh tourists against the previous year. Presently, over 11 lakh people are associated with the hotel industry in the valley and owe their livelihood to tourist arrivals. The recommendations of the report, therefore, become even more significant as the same report has projected that the tourism sector will provide employment to around 34 lakh youth. “It is estimated that by 2020, tourist arrival to J&K would cross 2.5 crore per annum and generate direct employment for 5.7 lakh people and indirect employment to 23.38 lakh,” report states.
One more thing, the report has also recommended expanding Srinagar International Airport so that tourists coming from gulf countries can directly arrive in the valley. For that, the government first needs to hand the airport over to civil aviation from the army. The first thing that a tourist sees as soon as he steps off the aircraft is a posse of men in uniform all around. Hardly a pleasant sight for those wanting to soak in the spectacular scenery of paradise on earth.