By Zaid Bin Shabir | Kashmir Observer
Srinagar– More than ten million tourists have visited Jammu and Kashmir this year so far, making it one of the most successful tourism years ever in the scenic valley which has witnessed a relatively plunging tourist footfall in the last three years.
The figures were placed by Union Minister for Tourism G K Reddy on Monday. As per Reddy, 1.05 crore, which is over 10 million, tourists have visited Jammu and Kashmir in the first six months of the calendar year 2022.
Replying to a query by All India Trinamool Congress leader, Mala Roy in Lok Sabha, the Union Minister, as per a document, said that the tourism sector in J-K is one of the core sectors of the local economy.
“As a result of the initiatives taken by the J&K Government in private as well as Government sectors there has been a significant hike in the tourist footfall despite the Covid challenges,” he said, adding that J&K has seen tourist flow in all the seasons during the period and that too high-end tourists, who have a good experience of quality services.
As per the Union Minister, in the year 2020, the tourist footfall was 41,267, which has increased to 1.05 crores during the first six months (January-June) of the calendar year 2022.
“This high influx of tourists has, directly and indirectly, benefited the local populace including the people living in far-flung areas of Jammu and Kashmir,” G K Reddy said.
Pertinently, tourism industry players in the Kashmir region had earlier predicted that the tourist arrivals are set to touch a 10-year high this year after more than 340,000 tourists had arrived in J&K since January, despite restrictions on foreign tourists and some incidents of targeted killings.
As per the data, this is for the first time since 2012 that the tourist footfall has gained a massive growth. In 2012, the number of tourists arriving in J&K was recorded to be over nine million.
In 2012, till October, 27,596 foreigners, 10, 42,431 domestic and 6, 21,104 Amarnath Yatris visited Kashmir while a total of 1,40,288 tourists visited Ladakh region. The number of pilgrims visiting Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu was 76, 88,291.
Notably, the Union government is supplementing the efforts of J&K’s tourism department with resources and necessary support. “Liberal funding of a record budget allocation of Rs 786 crore, Rs 509 crore higher than last budgetary allocation, speaks volumes of the Union government’s keenness to boost tourism infrastructure and related services in Jammu and Kashmir,” Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha had said in April, when the tourist footfall stood at 8 million.
As per the data available with Kashmir Observer, for the first time since 2015, the number of tourist arrivals for the month of November in 2021 had reached a record 1, 25,605 and in January and February 2022, over 1.5 lakh tourists had visited Gulmarg with over 80,000 domestic tourists.
Talking to Kashmir Observer, a top Tourism Official said, the exhilarating figures from the Union ministry are a testament to how keen Tourism Department and J&K Government is in reviving J&K’s tourism economy that has suffered massive damage on account of lockdowns and pandemic induced hiatus.
“Since 2021, the Tourism Department’s advertising campaign across major Indian cities and the opening of offbeat destinations has been attracting more tourists. Dozens of winter, spring and summer festivals were organised across J&K to give a boost to the tourism industry,” the official said.
The official noted that the department has tried its best to spread a word about J&K’s scenic beauty to the length and breadth of the world.
“And I guess, all these attempts have painted a very exhilarating picture, that can be seen through figures,” The official said, adding that the government is expecting these figures to double by the end of this year.