Tourism blooms in Kashmir, visitors throng the Valley in large numbers
On August 2, 2019, just three days before scrapping special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the Amarnath pilgrims and tourists were asked to vacate the Valley as soon as possible by the Administration of J&K.
. At the time of issuance of the advisory, Kashmir was flooded with pilgrims and visitors as the tourism season was at its peak. The orders to vacate the Valley did not go down well with Kashmir based leaders who termed the advisory as doom of tourism in the Valley and claimed that no one would return to Kashmir for years to come.
The announcement of scrapping of Article 370-that provided special privileges to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir- and its division into two union territories, J&K and Ladakh by the Centre on August 5, 2019 led to a clampdown in the state. The bookings in hotel, guesthouses and other places stood cancelled leaving them deserted for months.
Nevertheless, in January 2020, hordes of tourists started arriving in the Valley but this ray of hope for tourism was short lived and soon quashed in March 2020 by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that brought everything to a halt.
In February 2021, exactly after eighteen months of abrogation of Article 370, the Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel informed Rajya Sabha that the number of tourists visiting Kashmir since August 5, 2019 was 84,000.The Tourism Minister underlined that the handicraft sector of J&K did not witness any significant job losses since the special status was revoked as the Central Government had launched different schemes in order to support the sector.
Celebrations back in Kashmir after First Wave ofCOVID-19 subsided
After the first wave of COIVD-19 had subsided by December 2020, Kashmir celebrated Christmas and New Year with full zeal and enthusiasm. Since then, there has been an increasing trend in the number of tourists visiting Kashmir. In December 2020, it received 13,237 tourists. In January 2021, 19,102 tourists visited the Valley followed by arrival of 26,000 tourists in February, 2021.
This increasing pattern of tourists signals revival of tourism in the Valley and has invalidated the claims of Kashmir based leaders who had predicted doom’s day for Kashmir Tourism on August 5, 2019 when the Centre had scrapped J&K’s special status. The arrival of tourists in large numbers in the Valley during the past four months has shut the mouth of these politicians.
In March 2021, famous Badamvari garden in Srinagar’s old city was thrown open for public to welcome Spring in the Valley. Encouraged by large number of people visiting Badamvari garden, the famous Tulip Garden nestled on the foothills of Zabarwan mountain range too was declared open for public. The J&K Government organized a 2-day Tulip festival that comprised of enthralling cultural and musical performances by prominent singers.
Large number of people rushed to see their favorite artists perform live. The festival was thrown open by Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha . The tourists who visited the festival went back with a memory to be cherished forever.
The claims of a few people that tourism will not return to Kashmir after the revocation of J&K’s special status have turned out to be hollow. There is not an iota of doubt that tourism in Kashmir had witnessed a short time decline only because of the COVID-19 pandemic and there was no other reason behind it.
Kashmir tourism return to normalcy once the pandemic is over. Kashmir tourism industry will again flourish as the big income generator once the second wave of COVID-19 dies down in India.
Athletes throng Kashmir under ‘Khelo India Winter Games’The second Khelo India Winter Games at famous ski-resort in North Kashmir’s Gulmarg was virtually inaugurated by Prime Minister, Narendra Modion February 26, 2021.The Games saw participation of more than 1200 athletes from 27 Indian States and Union Territories.
In his virtual address Modi said, “This is a step towards making India’s presence felt in the international winter games arena and also make Jammu and Kashmir a hub of winter sports. These games in Gulmarg show that Jammu and Kashmir is eager to reach new heights of peace and development. These Games will strengthen the resolve for ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshth Bharat.”
Kashmir revisited by Bollywood Banners
Many Bollywood production houses, this year, have once again started scouting the picturesque Valley to figure out possibility of shooting movies. On January 29, 2021, a 24-member Bollywood delegation visited Kashmir, including director Rajkumar Hirani, members of the Ajay Devgan films, the Sanjay Dutt Productions, the Reliance Entertainment, the Rohit Shetty Films, the Zee Studios, the Adhikari Brothers & SAB (Marathi), the Endemol, and the Excel Entertainment.
The delegation also had the representatives from the Producers Guild, Mumbai. These Bollywood banners, mesmerized by the beauty of Kashmir, described it as an international film shooting destination. The members also talked about visiting several locations across Kashmir and found them “absolutely stunning”. They called Kashmir as a “complete package”.
Famous singers like Salim Merchant shot his upcoming song ‘Tumhe dekh ke’ in Kashmir, Jigar Saraiya also shot his latest song Heera and actress Mrunal Thakur and singer Guru Randhawa also shot their latest music video Abhi na Chhodho Mujhe in Kashmir.
Kashmir was the most preferred destination for Bollywood prior to 1990 when armed insurgency broke out in J&K and prevented production houses from shooting in the Valley. Hit films like Junglee, Kashmir Ki Kali, Jab Jab Phool Khile and many more were shot in the Valley. But after the decade of 90s,the threat perception scared away filmmakers from shooting in Kashmir.
Kashmir’s Health Tourism Potential
During the period of imposition of Article 370, Kashmir people were deprived of better healthcare facilities owing to restrictions of ownership of land that prevented top healthcare providers from opening up hospitals in Kashmir. However, after the abrogation of Article 370 that has brought about relaxation in land ownership for industries and service sector, the J&K government has received proposals for establishing 18 private hospitals with investment of Rs.3,200 crore in the form of MoUs.
This was informed by a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs during the recently held Parliament session in India
Kashmir’s salubrious climate is apt for health tourism but during the past seven decades not many healthcare providers could set up hospitals in the Valley. The abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir has opened up new vistas for them and very soon one will see top health institutions of the country venturing into the Valley.
The healthcare institutions acknowledge that investing in the Valley will prove to be a very good business decision as Kashmir has the potential to attract people for treatment as its climate itself can act as a healing agent.
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