Srinagar, Sept 10: The tourism sector which was once considered as backbone of Kashmir economy has witnessed less than 500 tourists post abrogation of special status on August 5, 2019.
Kashmir News Service (KNS) has learnt through its sources that less than 500 domestic tourists have visited Valley since Government of J&K UT lifted ban on tourism activities across J&K. Earlier the restrictions were imposed on August 3, 2019 days before New Delhi was set to abrogate Article 370 and 35(A) and downgraded the erstwhile State into two UTs – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
J&K administration then headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik asked all local and international tourists to curtail their Kashmir visit which had increased apprehensions of locals regarding the future plans of Union Government.
However sources told KNS that tourism players which were earning good for themselves besides providing employment to to lakhs of youth are struggling to maintain their ventures.
Tourism players informed KNS that after the scrapping of Article 370, the sector has suffered huge brunt which led to lakhs of job losses.
“Tourism sector in J&K has been collapsed since August 5, 2019 when the then Government asked tourists to cut short their visit. This situation remains prevalent for a year due to uncertainty. However the Covid-19 pandemic hit the sector worst which proved the last nail in the coffin”, they added.
As per sources, people associated with tourism were badly affected by these back to back episodes. “Around 3 lac people have lost their employment since August 5. Tourist outlets and institutions are wailing from last 13 months”, they said.
They added despite huge losses, Government both in Centre and UT have failed to rehabilitate the affected people who have no other alternate source of income.
According to sources, due to the abrogation of Article 370 and outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism industry in Jammu and Kashmir has recorded a revenue loss to the tune of over Rs 1168 Cr while in 2019 there has been a decline in 34 percent in tourist footfall.
The officials in the tourism department have calculated this loss on account of non-functional tourism industry in Kashmir region on the basis of hypothesis of the tourist arrival and their expenditure.
As per official data, the loss of tourism industry in Kashmir division is Rs 1166.81 Cr (approximately) on account of non-functional tourism industry from January 2019 to June 2020.
However it has been learnt that after several key officials of J&K Tourism Department tested Covid-19 positive, the preperations of the department to prepare tourism arrival plans has been affected badly.
Meanwhile Kashmir Hoteliers Club Chairman and prominent hotelier Mushtaq Ahmed Chaya has demanded the Government for assistance to tourism sector players for surviving the distress
Speaking to KNS, he said, ” People associated with the tourism are trying hard to get tourists here. Domestic tourist is reluctant to leave home due to covid. Govt. should help tourism sector players . Government should help in survival of people associated with the tourism sector. Govt should also think about his revival . Tourism is in a very bad shape. By the time there is good arrival of tourists, people associated with tourism should be able to survive by then and they can survive with Govt help only.” “I have already requested lieutenant Governor and the members of committee formed on his directions for compensation. We have various liabilities like expenses on maintenance of hotels, salary of staff. Government should look into it by virtue of finance, tax and cash flow so that we at least survive. We have submitted representation to Lieutenant Governor, Advisor, Chief Secretary. Government should help the people involved with the sector.”