There has been a death blow to about 33 percent population of Jammu and Kashmir who are directly or indirectly dependent on tourism sector
Every year across the globe World Tourism Day is celebrated on 27th of September. This day is celebrated under a particular theme that changes year after year. This year’s World Tourism Day is celebrated with the theme of “Tourism and Development”. This day is celebrated to highlight the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities in preserving cultural and natural heritage around the world.
The first World Tourism Day was celebrated in 1980, when United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) adopted its statutes 10 years before (1970) on the same day. Marking September 27 as World Tourism Day was the brain child of a Nigerian national Ignatius AmaduwaAligbi.
The purpose of this day is to raise the awareness among the world populace about the role of tourism sector from domestic to international level. It demonstrates the social, cultural, political and economic values of the particular regions.
Tourism plays a pivotal role in shaping the economy of any state, country or any region. It has the potential to bring huge economic changes for a destination that wishes to develop their tourism industry. Employment, currency exchange, imports and taxes are just a few of the ways that tourism can bring money into a destination.
Some of the facts as reported by United Nations (UN) economic impact report about the economic importance of the tourism industry are:
Tourism economy represents 05 percent of world GDP; Tourism contributes 6-7 percent of total world employment; International tourism ranks 4th after fuels, chemicals and automotive products in global exports; Tourism industry is values at US $1trillion a year; tourism accounts for 30 percent of world exports of commercial service; Tourism accounts for 06 percent of total exports; and tourism is the main source of foreign exchange of one-third of developing countries and one half of less economically developed countries.
The tourism industry is considered as the backbone of the employment generation. Since the emergence of the Covid-19, the life has been out of gear from head to tail. There has been no industry or sector that remained unaffected and the tourism industry has been hit too hard.
The world came still when the imposition of lockdown started from mid February 2020 and is still not recovering to its base. The ban on travel ban, be it domestic or international, created the economic slowdown worldwide. People who are dwelling on tourism sector have been facing hardships and are fearing extension of their services. The people associated with tourism industry have opted for some other jobs where they can earn their livelihood.
When we talk of Jammu and Kashmir in general and Kashmir valley in particular; it is eye-catching destination for everyone around the world. It is called the ‘Switzerland of East’ for its aesthetic scenery. Jammu and Kashmir is being called as “paradise on earth” for its unmatchable scenic beauty and alluring landscapes. From early times of Mughals, the Kashmir has been considered as a hotspot for tourists. There was a huge rush of tourists till August 2019 and all faded in a jiffy when sudden clampdown was imposed by the government. What happened on political grounds after that is not going to be my discussion point here but what happened to tourism sector of Kashmir since then is worrisome. There has been a death blow to about 33 percent population of Jammu and Kashmir who are directly or indirectly dependent on tourism sector.
Tourism as catalysing force is playing very significant role in the local economy although the recent trends of this industry are not satisfying across Jammu and Kashmir. It is one of the most economically backward parts of India, having all the characteristics of an underdeveloped economy. Due to vast tourism, the tourism dependent people contribute 16 percent to domestic product.
After few months of clampdown in August 2019, the tourism industry had started their business again in December during winters when the tourists started to visit Kashmir after doing various promotions through print and electronic media. No one had imagined that there will be another testifying time of survival for this industry when they hardly started again. The imposition of lockdown in the last week of March 2020 was again a blow to this sector. People had not yet forgotten the aftermath of August 2019 and here another standby plan of lockdown started in this year.
Since this industry has been hit hard a proper policy needs to be framed by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department for the revival of tourism across Jammu and Kashmir. Since tourism is mainly a private sector driven industry, government must act as facilitator.
On this World Tourism Day, government must do some exercise on ground and help the people associated who are turning bankrupt due to non-payment of loans/installments. Celebrating and spending money on hoarding and advertisement is not bad but to encourage the people associated with this sector is much more important. We should not be in a position that the people who have been in this industry for years will move to some other jobs and at the end we will have to hire the people to run this sector.
It is my humble request to the higher authority for framing a policy document wherein people suffering from huge loses shall get some relief from the department. Most of the roads leading to various tourist destinations must be repaired and maintained for long term. Various tourist destinations in Kashmir have mobile connectivity issue and it must be resolved by the concerned authorities at an earliest.