As the world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic which has wreaked havoc on India’s global and domestic tourism sector, tourism players in the valley are hoping to see good winter tourism this season. Shortly after the introduction of the covid-19 vaccination program in India, the administration of Jammu and Kashmir headed by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha placed the tourism sector in the region under the priority sector for vaccination against Covid-19. The Kashmir Tourism Directorate, under the leadership of the LG administration, has launched a vaccination campaign for stakeholders associated with the tourism industry to ensure the smooth functioning of the industry. According to officials of the tourism department, the year 2021 saw a massive increase in tourist attendance compared to the year 2020 which only saw around 41,267 tourists. According to official figures, the year 2021 until the end of November recorded tourist attendance of about 6 04902 tourists.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir has asked the two divisions of the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department to keep destinations vibrant this winter and has planned a series of winter sports, events and programs to attract more tourists in UT. In an interview with Rising Kashmir, Tourism Secretary-Commissioner Sarmad Hafeez said the Jammu and Kashmir division’s tourism departments are all ready to welcome tourists and that a series of programs and events is planned to attract more and more tourists. “A series of events are planned for this winter, which will primarily see the opening of Sonamarg for this winter,” Hafeez added.
According to official data, the famous ski destination Gulmarg attracted a total attendance of 544,862 visitors, surpassing local visitors who registered only an attendance of 237,949, while under the domestic circuit, a total of 306,908 tourist attendance was been registered from January 2021. to November 2021. In Pahalgam according to official data, from January 2021 up to the end of November 2021, it had attracted a total attendance of 4,326,056 visitors and the attendance of local visitors exceeded the attendance of national visitors. According to official figures, a total of 2,19,737 local visitors visited the destination and 2,012,062 national circuit visitors visited the destination.
In particular, with the aim of attracting more tourists to the Valley, the Department of Tourism has taken several initiatives and organized various programs and festivals in collaboration with the various district administrations of the Valley and stakeholders associated with the tourism industry. Kashmir Tourism Director Dr Itoo said: “Various programs and festivals have been organized with the aim of attracting tourists across the country and the department is likely to hold various programs and events in the coming months” .
Notably, to jumpstart the tourism industry, the Covid-19 vaccination was a necessity of the moment, however officials said the goal of the vaccine was to instill a sense of trust and security among visitors. The department is also ensuring that our own people who work in the tourism industry are vaccinated, as their safety is also a top priority, officials said. Officials said the vaccination campaign elicited a tremendous response, and despite reluctance to have vaccines at an early stage, the tourism department ensured that stakeholders were vaccinated and those excluded, the sites of vaccination remained open to them.
However, after the second wave of Covid-19 hit the valley along with other parts of India, authorities in Jammu and Kashmir imposed Corona Lockdown in April in all districts of Jammu Union Territory. -and-Kashmir. It should be mentioned that after the government authorized tourist activities in June 2020 last year, the Kashmir tourism department launched various programs and events to attract tourists from different parts of the country. The tourism department has organized numerous programs and events in different regions of the country, including carnivals, road shows, exhibitions and webinars with different tour operators across the country.
As the valley has great tourism potential, the department plans to launch many new initiatives to attract more tourists to the valley. Kashmir Tourism Director Dr GN Itoo said various ideas are being discussed to improve the tourism potential of the valley. To instill a greater sense of security, the Tourism Department previously integrated the Srinagar Hotel Management Institute (HMI) and other agencies, and initiated the capacity building measures program for stakeholders associated with the tourism industry to further strengthen the operational mechanism to ensure the stakeholders who have a direct interface with tourists feel safe during their visit to the valley, after stabilization of the Covid situation.
To calibrate the tourism actors on the adoption of the appropriate behavior of Covid, after the stabilization of the Covid situation, the Kashmir Tourism Directorate, has launched the program of capacity building measures for the actors associated with tourism in the interior of Dal Lake in Srinagar, where the Shikara Walas, were calibrated in the first phase. The department integrated the cultural program to spread the Covid awareness message, sketches with humor, fun and mimicry were presented to convey the message.
Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC), which owns the maximum amount of tourism infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir, in addition to improving some of its existing infrastructure, has also undergone many changes in the department. . According to JKTDC officials, who said the department is planning to rejuvenate some of its infrastructure and will likely begin the necessary modifications and changes in the year 2022.
However, the JKTDC in 2021 succeeded in inducing the installation of a cruise ship in the famous Dal Lake and the re-inauguration of the 50-year-old first Chinese restaurant in the valley after its renovation.
(The author is RK Senior Reporter)