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Demystifying JK's Tourism Industry
June 19, 2011
Demystifying JK's Tourism Industry


19 June 2011

BILAL HUSSAIN, Jammu & Kashmir:

'Peace is imperative for tourism', the state officials, 'mainstream politicians' have been yelling since long and now with separatist camp too has started making the similar noises by mentioning 'tourism contributes heavily to state's economy'; is it so? Tourism, could prove to be a backbone of any region’s economy in normal situation but not the one prevalent in the Valley. And it has never been the case in Kashmir as peace and tourism don't go hand in hand in the state.

Economics of tourism

A glimpse over historic data of the tourism industry reveals that it had undergone lots of tough times, suffered to the extent that it didn't contributed to the economy as is being projected. Tourism has never been a mainstay for the state's economy, however, it touched peak in seventies and even though it contributed not over 10 per cent to J&K's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A cost benefit analysis of the sector, I am sure would question the public investments at the cost of other productive sectors like: agriculture, handicrafts, horticulture, hydro power and many other vital sectors.

Directorate of Economics & Statistics Jammu and Kashmir Economy survey report for 2008-09 mentions that the revenue earnings made under the public sector in tourism sector from 2004-05 till 2007-08 was about INR 103.62 crore. The percentage increase has been 10.48 per cent for the year 2007-08 as compared to 2006-07.

The economic and social impacts on the local community depend on how much of the income is generated by tourists go to the host communities. In most all-inclusive package tours more than 80% of travelers’ fees go to the airlines, hotels and other outside companies, not to local businessmen and workers.

Sorry tale of Employment

On the other hand hotel chain restaurants often import food to satisfy foreign visitors and rarely employ local staff for senior management positions, preventing local farmers and workers from reaping the benefit of their presence. According to news report there are about 125 posts lying vacant in the department of tourism, while over 200 tourism professionals with requisite qualifications are left jobless in the state. Why can't state give them opportunities to serve in the hotels and let them prove their mettle, which in a way would develop human resource for the sector.

Fostering peace

The notion that tourism generates cultural harmony is derived from the 'elitist traditions' of travel in the eighties and today enshrined in the World Tourism Organization's mission statement, which includes the goal of fostering international peace and understanding.

However, claims that tourism is a vital force for peace are exaggerated. Indeed there is little evidence that tourism is drawing the world together (Robinson 1999). Tourism can increase tension, hostility, and suspicion. It has the power to affect cultural change. Little thought is given to the fact that tourism influence can initiate dramatic and irreversible changes within the cultures of host communities.

Ecological footprints

While on ecological front it has many negatives like tourism often grows into mass-tourism. It leads to the over consumption, pollution, and lack of resources. It depends to which extent tourism is developed in a particular region. Every region has its tolerating capacity, that is to say the limit of the incoming influence that doesn't harm the host community. If we overcome that limit negative impacts of tourism will follow.

Increase in the number of domestic and pilgrimage tourist is posing an environmental disaster for the valley. The cosmetic efforts by the state are in no way respite to the suffering ecology of Kashmir . What has been discovered is that increased domestic tourism exacerbated ecological burden without improving economic of the state. However, policy makers should look for sustainable tourism and look for the ecological footprint of tourism activities. And frame the tourism policies taken into account the ecological footprint of tourism.

The number of foreign tourists to the valley has drastically dwindled from the figure of 59938 to 22000 during the years 1988 to 2008 registering a decrease of 63.30 per cent. The main cause of decrease in foreign tourists to Kashmir is due to the advisories issued by different governments overseas.

Over tertiarized

Economy consists of three sectors: primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. The primary sector includes all the economic activities which involve getting goods in their primary form from nature without any value addition i.e. agriculture, livestock, poultry, fishing and forestry etc. The secondary sector includes the economic activities which involve value addition to the primary products i.e. industries. The tertiary sector include all economic activities which provide services to the primary and secondary sector as well as to the final consumers.

The normal course to development that any region takes is development of industrial sector via development in agriculture and then transformation of the tertiary sector to grow into a fully developed service economy. The state didn't ever succeeded in its endeavors to an extent to be self sufficient in food grains and also had a basic industrial base. Jumping in to service sector economy is no way going to be sustainable for the economic health of the state. Instead focusing on primary and secondary sector could go long way to build sound financial system in the state.

Summing up

Owing to these difficulties in the tourism industry and the industry has never proven economically beneficial to the valley. It is high time for policy makers, politicians and other stake holders to look for other prosperous sectors that could yield better financial results and at the same time would be sustainable.

(Author can be contacted at ibilalhussain@gmail.com).