State administration as well as Tourism Department has to be practical and pragmatic when discussing the reasons for recession in tourist footprints in the valley this summer. Stakeholders are complaining that this year has been worst of all the years of militancy in respect of the number of tourists visiting Kashmir. The hotels are almost empty, the houseboats are almost empty and the adverse impact is felt by a large number of people connected with tourist industry. Not only the indigenous tourists are avoiding coming to Kashmir even the foreigners too are not showing any interest in Kashmir. They prefer to visit other destinations like Leh and Himachal Pradesh.
In order to change the disappointing situation in the State about tourist industry almost breathing it last, the Chief Minister led a team of State officers and of Tourist Department to various states to sell Kashmir tourism to the people interested in touring Kashmir. The reports are though the concerned in various States promised that they would encourage the tourists from their respective states to visit the Valley yet practically nobody came. Those concerned with Kashmir tourist industry including the functionaries of the Tourism Department argue that twenty thousand crore rupees allocated to tourism out of the Prime Minister’s package is meant for developing infrastructure and as such it is not going to help the people depending on tourism. They argue that that having the infrastructure without the footfall of a large number of tourists is meaningless. This argument has no takers. If there is no infrastructure but there is influx of tourists does it help in the growth of Kashmir tourism? Not at all and that is why we say it is a flawed logic.
The hard reality of ongoing situation of Kashmir tourism is that the Valley no the entire Kashmir is in the grip of turmoil, unrest, stone throwing, strikes and hartals which paralyses life and business. Who are responsible for this scenario? Obviously, the leaders of separatists and secessionists who want turmoil to go on to malign the State and its administration. Therefore, what the people who are suffering on account of recession in tourist industry should directly address the separatists leaders especially the stalwarts like Ali Shah Geelani to withdraw and eschew the calls for strike. They should create circumstances that give the impression that there is peace and friendly atmosphere in Kashmir. It is ironic that on the one hand Ali Shah is giving calls for strike and on the other hand he is making appeals to the tourists to come in hordes to Kashmir. There is fundamental contradiction in his thinking and in the thinking of others as well.
Again the blame is brought to the doorsteps of the media. This is again illogical and insinuation against media. The media has no enmity with the Tourism Department rather it would feel very happy to project the positive aspects of tourism. We fail to understand why such negative ideas should come to the head of the authorities of tourism. It is a fact that the media has been critical of the continuing function of the Tourism Department and that criticism is healthy one not derogatory. The tourism should take it in its stride because the criticism is meant to help the department to improve service and quality. The fact of the matter is that Tourism Department should not try to find scape goats for its own inefficiency and slackness. Just organizing festivals and television publicity of showing beautiful scenes of Kashmir geography will not do. Tourism Department should not get angry if we tell them that there are many complaints from civil society about corruption, nepotism and inefficiency. How cometourists’ destinations of Pahalgam and Gulmarg are being encroached upon so much so that the High Court had to intervene? Why not encroachment is reported in time and got vacated? Why are the functionaries sleeping over it? The tourism department must come out with an answer. While we appreciate the Chief Minister carrying a team of bureaucrats with her and visiting the state capitals to sell Kashmir tourism, we would have also liked if she carried teams of MLAs with her and visited the militancy infested areas of the Valley and explained to the people about the damages which militancy is causing to the people of Kashmir. Millions of people and thousands of families are associated with tourist industry and it is the combined responsibility of the ministers and law makers to make people understand what damage militancy are doing to Kashmir… We hope that instead of carrying the onus to the doorsteps of others the Government will first make some introspection to decide who it should appeal in right earnest.