Jammu and Kashmir-Ladakh tourism sector hit

Sharp fall in number of visitors, says Ministry data

October 05, 2020 02:28 am | Updated 02:28 am IST - NEW DELHI

File photo of tourists at the Leh

File photo of tourists at the Leh

The COVID-19 pandemic along with the shutdown following abrogation of Article 370 in August last year has dealt a severe blow to tourism in the youngest Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The number of tourists to Jammu and Kashmir stood at about 25.04 lakh (nearly 25 lakh domestic tourists and 5,056 foreign tourists), and to Ladakh at 6,079 (5,019 domestic tourists and 1,060 foreign tourists), this year till June 2020, according to Ministry of Tourism data shared in reply to an RTI query by Kochi-based activist K. Govindan Nampoothiry.

As per the provisional data shared, 1.62 crore visitors came to Jammu and Kashmir and more than 2.79 lakh tourists to Ladakh in the full year 2019. Of these, about 1.61 crore were domestic tourists and 57,920 people were foreign tourists. The number of visitors to Jammu and Kashmir is also lower compared to 2018, when the tourist numbers stood at over 1.72 crore, including 1.70 crore domestic tourists and over 1.39 lakh foreign visitors.

Border standoff

“The administration of Jammu & Kashmir should now take steps to unlock breathtaking tourist destinations to the public, promote them in domestic as well as in foreign arenas and brand J&K tourism,” Mr. Nampoothiry said, adding that the steep decline in the number of tourists to the Ladakh region was a key concern. “Tense situations on the LAC (Line of Actual Control) on regular intervals might be the primary reason for this plunge apart from COVID-19.” he added.

Pronab Sarkar, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), which represents more than 1,700 tour operators for inbound tourists, told The Hindu that the number of tourists to J&K and Ladakh had fallen considerably after the shutdown following the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, bringing tourism virtually to a standstill.

“Post that, in winter there was some tourism inflow but it was low...because of the severe cold, and then the pandemic hit. Since the end of March 2020, no tourism is happening... So, these figures are quite surprising, and seem to have included Vaishno Devi pilgrimage tourist inflow, which is growing every year,” he said.

Mr. Sarkar added that going forward, the tour operators are hoping that there would be a gradual revival and the government would facilitate movement of tourists at least within the country. “This will definitely revive the lost jobs and help improve the overall economy,” he added.

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