Comprehensive State Tourism Policy

For quite some time, especially since the year 2015, Jammu and Kashmir Government(s) have been clamouring for framing of a comprehensive Tourism Policy as a blueprinted scheme to give a fillip to tourism in such a way so as to have the state carved for a special niche in the Tourism sector not only on the national scene but importantly, at the international level. What we happen to “possess” in this State could have been turned into Tourism Wonders by other countries who know the tremendous importance of this sector in respect of the country’s economy especially in mopping maximum foreign exchange but frankly speaking, there are “other priorities” and preferences which have the strength of pushing this subject to the last priority , if not to abject wilful oblivion. The reasons being not only the existence of a vast potential in this sector and having enough scope as well, the same not having been fully exploited so far but to have such a scenario sprouted whereby concerted efforts could be mobilized to conserve, protect and “repair and replenish” existing symbols and places of natural boons and blessings considered of cardinal importance for tourism. However, some stress being currently laid on adventure tourism like paragliding, mountaineering, water rafting etc by the Tourism Department is a welcome sign and a departure from a virtual status quo position . Similar innovative and measures need to be seriously taken in other areas of tourism taking a holistic view but under a detailed professionally woven policy.
‘Excelsior’ has been very often highlighting the stupendous and the gargantuan importance of this sector and beseeching the successive State Governments to evolve a comprehensive Tourism Policy applicable to all the three regions of the state taking on board, all stake holders . The response on the ground has been far from satisfactory even in matters of finalising a formal Draft Policy. The fact of the matter is that patch work or ad-hoc approach is seen employed in the entire gamut of tourism area . In other words, the reality being that on year to year basis, some temporary arrangements are made for ensuring tourist inflow in the valley “for the current year ” and that is all about the issue with no policy for the next year and for Jammu and Ladakh regions as well.
How many countless spots of great tourist importance in Jammu region are identified on yearly basis and planned to develop into tourist hubs remains to be seen. It is a travesty that blooming Tulip gardens in Sanasar Ramban which could have attracted tourists in thousands during the months of April and May do not have elementary connecting infrastructure like roads and proper transport etc. Prime Minister’s Development Package and other forms of grants and funds from the centre should, as a matter of fact, have been utilized for expansion of the tourism sector equitably in all the three regions. Likewise, existing tourist places in this region continue to remain neglected and not developed to their potential . Same is the case with Ladakh region. This all could have been taken care of by a well devised Tourism Policy, a vision document and a professional approach all in combine. Developing communication, intra- state coordination within the State, publicity , seminars , exhibitions , etc would be the added tools to give a fillip to state tourism to have its importance and potential fully explored.
Agreed, the scourge of on-going Pakistan sponsored militancy is to a larger extent , the bane of flourishing of tourism sector and though confined to the affected districts of the Kashmir valley only, should not have a telling effect on exploring ways to develop and sustain this vital sector of the economy of this state as a whole. A paradigm shift is needed both in the mind-set and as well as the administrative will of the Government, there being more expectations from the Governor’s Administration in respect of evolving of a comprehensive Tourism Policy.