Sound tourism policy needed

Innovative, transformative and a well designed professional policy to give a much needed impetus to the tourism sector appears to be nowhere in sight. Flip flop , wavering and patch work approaches have deprived this vital sector of the State’s economy of having been fully exploited to contribute more than it traditionally in its inertial way does. Could the State Tourism Department get an inkling or a cue from the experiences of those of the small sized countries like Portugal where tourism alone has occupied the prime space and has become economic mainstay and is one of the top most visited five countries in the world. India though being world’s 7th largest tourism economy yet China tops at 4th slot.
Come Jammu and Kashmir, it is bestowed with all that a tourist could aspire for to enjoy a holiday in and around plus indulge in non traditional tourist activities like mountaineering , trekking, rafting and other adventure tourism . We do not need any introduction to the outside world in terms of the abundance of tourism related treasures this State is blessed with like scenic landscape, meadows, lakes, rivers, valleys, snow capped mountains etc along with religious tourism but what we are lacking is a comprehensive and exhaustive tourism policy. Whatever is going on in this vital sector is going on its own in an unplanned and directionless way , not only in one but all the three regionswhile we all fairly know that an encyclopaedic Tourism Policy was integral to growth, promotion and sustenance of this vital sector and allied activities in all the distinct regions of Jammu and Kashmir State.
It may look slightly uncomfortable to those who are at the helm of affairs in State Tourism Department that the routine alibi of funds shortage could never always be stomached as agreeably that lacunae cannot be written off completely but the massive funds under Prime Minister’s Development Package and Central assistance are either not being properly utilized or there is total absence of a much required zeal. What drives one to take action is called the mindsetwhich it appears in the instant case is not in preparedness to take decisions. We have,through these columns been stressing upon the fact that decisions making capacities are hallmark of a good governance and administration though the element of risk factor associated with every decision cannot be ruled out but benefits and gains enormously outnumber negligible risk or failure probabilities. If the intentions backed by honesty and transparency are there to strengthen and brighten tourism related prospects, success could not be far, not to speak of focussing on organised growth to ensure sustainability in the years to come. The successive State Governments, as we know, proved too frugal in approach to bring about any perceptible turnaround in the StateTourism area.
Though it was increasingly felt to make tourism as the principle engine of economic development of the State, yet only in the year of 2015 some movement towards framing comprehensive Tourism Policy took place and on the directions of the then Chief Minister Late Mufti Sayeed, the Tourism Advisory Committee held wide – ranging discussions to suggest short term and long term measures aimed at seeing Jammu and Kashmir emerging as a prime tourism destination. Thereafter, a Draft Tourism Policy was prepared and circulated among all the stakeholders for their suggestions, comments, modifications et-al but the exercise got aborted due to complete lack of interest from all the concerned quarters. Again, this left out major policy matter had to be looked into by the Governor’s administration which, of late, found several flaws in the draft itself and the need has been felt to solicit the involvement of the professional to give final shape to the Draft policy but no timeframe has been fixed.
Let it be hoped that efforts would be redoubled by all the stakeholders in tandem, to make Jammu and Kashmir as one of the most favoured tourist destinationsby taking such steps which attract and promote tourism like encouraging investments in this sector, even encouraging public private joint ventures to build the necessary infrastructure, connectivity, roads , quality boarding and lodging, communication, publicity, hassles free booking , offering quality facilities, associated cultural and entertaining activities, traditional food shows and the like. The concerns expressed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Tourism and Culture need to be addressed. However, while the limitations dictated by the militant violence and related activities in the State cannot be ruled out while evaluating the progress in this sector but that alone was not the reason also as all the three regions fared poorly.