Every year across the globe World Tourism Day is celebrated on 27th of September. This day is celebrated under a particular theme that changes year after year. This day is celebrated to highlight the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities in preserving cultural and natural heritage around the world. The first World Tourism Day was celebrated in 1980, when United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) adopted its statutes 10 years before (1970) on the same day. Marking September 27 as World Tourism Day was the brain child of a Nigerian national- Ignatius Amaduwa Aligbi. The purpose of this day is to raise the awareness among the world populace about the role of tourism sector from domestic to international level. It demonstrates the social, cultural, political and economic values of the particular regions. Tourism plays a pivotal role in shaping the economy of any state, country or any region. Tourism has a potential to bring huge economic changes for a destination that wishes to develop their tourism industry. Employment, currency exchange, imports & taxes are just a few of the ways that tourism can bring money into a destination.
Kashmir, one of the most magnificent destinations in India, is recognised for its natural beauty and is hence appropriately referred to as “Heaven on Earth.” With its beautiful lakes, luscious fruit orchards, green meadows, pine and deodar woods, all surrounded by mountains of the Himalayan and Pir-Panjal ranges, Kashmir appears to have stepped right out of a postcard. Kashmir Valley is excellent for nature enthusiasts, family vacations, honeymooners, and even a group of friends.
The tourism industry is considered as the backbone of the employment generation. Since the emergence of the Covid-19, the life has been out of gear from head to tail. There has been no industry or sector that remained unaffected and the tourism industry has been hit too hard. The world came still when the imposition of lockdown started from mid February 2020 and is still not recovering to its base. The ban on travel ban, be it domestic or international created the economic slowdown worldwide. People who are dwelling on tourism sector have been facing hardships and are fearing extension of their services. The people associated with tourism industry have opted to do try their hand in some other jobs where they can earn their livelihood.
When we talk of J&K in general and Kashmir valley in particular; it is eye-catching destination for everyone around the world. It is called the Switzerland of East for its aesthetic scenery. J&K being called as “paradise on earth” for its unmatchable scenic beauty & alluring landscapes. From early times of Mughals, the Kashmir has been considered as a hotspot for tourists. From the lofty mountainous regions of Gulmarg, Sonamarg & Pahalgam to the Dal Lake every tourist spot is being thronged by the tourists from India and abroad. There has been huge rush of tourists till August 2019 and that faded in a jiffy when sudden clampdown was imposed by the Government. What happened on political grounds after that is not going to be my discussion point here but what happened to tourism sector of Kashmir from then is worrisome. There has been a death blow to about 33% population of J&K who are directly or indirectly dependent on tourism sector.
The Department of Tourism celebrated the World Tourism Day Monday with events like adventure, culture, sanitation and awareness activities marking the day.
In this regard the main event was held here where Chief Secretary, Dr Arun Kumar Mehta flagged off several tourism promotional activities. The day also saw events at all the major destinations and even at the offices of the Tourism Department outside J&K.
At the Royal Springs Golf Course, the Chief Secretary flagged off an all girls trekking expedition comprising some 30 girl students, Sky running expedition(running competition upwards hills) consisting of 30 members besides a cycle rally to Astanmarg, Harwan.
On the occasion, Dr. Mehta said that it is the continuous endeavor of the government to vaccinate the whole adult population of J&K. He expressed his satisfaction over the cooperation extended by the general public in curbing the coronavirus.
Mehta further said that the government has decided to promote 75 lesser known tourist destinations while maintaining that the UT has tremendous potential in tourism and there are other locations that have equal appeal but need promotion and raising of tourism related infrastructure. He said that night flights at Srinagar and Jammu airports along with other measures would give tourism in J&K a major fillip.
The Chief Secretary said that tourism trade has picked up during the past few months. He said that it is a good sign that people are visiting this place as both the appropriate behavior and vaccination of tourism stakeholders has been carried out beforehand.
On the occasion, Dr. Mehta also interacted with the members of all the adventure groups taking part in today’s rallies. He encouraged them to make trekking, cycling, hiking and other adventure related activities their zeal as these activities add color to life.
Later the Chief Secretary also flagged off a shikara rally in the world famous Dal lake to celebrate the day.
The day also marked the opening of the refurbished Nun Kun restaurant on the foothills of Zabarwan mountains on Dal banks by Dr. Mehta. The restaurant is famed for its specialised Chinese cuisine and with its refurbishment the ambience and facility at the restaurant has been scaled to new levels. He asked the tourism authorities to market the facilities available therein so that people get aware about it. He asked them to exploit both the location and infrastructure upto the maximum.
The Chief Secretary also e-launched the Covid safe tourism campaign to spread awareness about Covid-19 and the precautions to be followed while conducting business. He also e-launched 19 multilingual tourism promotional brochures in five major languages including English, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and Bengali. This was a major demand by the tourist community which has been met by the Department today.
Later in the day, the Tourism Department hosted a group of tourists from Mudurai, Tamil Nad who were all praise for the comfortable stay here.
In the evening a Cultural function was held at Kongposh restaurant, Rajbagh where artists enthralled the audience with their scintillating performances. A painting competition was also held on the occasion.
Secretary, Tourism & Culture, Sarmad Hafeez, Director Tourism, GN Itoo and other officers and officials besides a number of tourists were present on the occasion.
The day was also celebrated by the Department at many other places. At Srinagar International airport tourists arriving today were received in a traditional way by the staff of the Department posted there.
At destinations like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonmarg, Doodpathri, Yousmarg, Verinag, Nigeen Club and other destinations cleanliness drives, awareness campaigns, trekking expeditions and other activities were held by the Department to mark the occasion.
People in large numbers including many tourists attended these functions.
The offices of the Department situated outside including Kolkatta and New Delhi also celebrated the World Tourism Day.
On this World Tourism Day, Govt. must do some exercise on ground and help the people associated who are turning bankrupt due to non-payment of loans/instalments. Celebrating and spending money on hoarding and advertisement is not bad but to encourage the people associated with this sector is much more important. We should not be in a position that the people who have been in this industry for years will move to some other jobs and at the end we will have to hire the people to run this sector. Moreover it is desired that higher authority to frame a policy document wherein people suffering from huge loses shall get some relief from the department. Most of the roads leading to various tourist destinations must be repaired and maintained for long term. Various tourist destinations in Kashmir have mobile connectivity issue and it must be resolved by the concerned authorities at an earliest.