Tourism has become a popular activity not only in Jammu and Kashmir but across the country. Jammu and Kashmir offers vast tourism potential in its all region viz. Jammu Province, Valley of Kashmir, and Ladakh region.
It is because Jammu and Kashmir has gifted with a number of religious tourist spots and picturesque places, wildlife, wetlands, ecosystem, lush green meadows and thick coniferous and deciduous forests. Snow capped Pir- Panjal Mountains, valleys and rivers, Shivalik Hills coupled with springs and lakes have immense potential to entice tourists.
Jammu is the winter capital of State and it is famous for its temples, Hindu shrines , particularly The Vaishno Devi Shrine in Katra which is visited by one crore (10 million) pilgrims every year making Jammu the most visited part of J&K. A recent study was conducted with regards to the pilgrim tourism, economics of Katra- Gateway of Vaishno Devi pilgrimage in Jammu. It was found that the pilgrims were injecting annually as much as 475 crores into its economy, with a total of nearly 28,000 employees in various sector. Such sectors mainly consist of commercial establishments, hospitality, transport sectors, priests and pollywallahs.
The Jammu region endowned with natural beauty , is dotted with a number of historiacal monuments like Mubarakh -Mandi Complex, Bagh-e-Bahu, Bahu- Fort and Mohamaya Rakh, Gurdwaras, Darghas and a number of Temples like Raghunath Temple, Pirkho Temple, Ranbireshwar Temple, Panchvaktar and Panjtirthi Temple, Mohmaya Tempe, Gurdwaras at Jain Bazaar and Raghunath Bazaar, Durghas at Pir Mitha, Mastaghar and Ustaad Mohalla, Talab Khatikan and Gummat are the main religious places in and around the Jammu city which have the potential for the development of pilgrimage tourism. Jammu region is also characterised by having historic forts and others such places of Ramnagar, Reasi and Udhmapur. Other pilgrimage centers in the Jammu region are Sharda Sharif, Buddha Amarnath and Nagli Shaab Gurdwara in Rajouri and Poonch. The Shrine of Shardha Sharif in Rajoutri District, about 177 kms from Jammu, is one of the most popular Muslim Shrines of Jammu region, visited by thousands of devotee everyday irrespective of caste and creed in deep faith.
There are number of pilgrim’s sites in Jammu province which have the highest potential value to be popular. But at present there are some spots which are not so popular like Naba Mata (Tehsil Dnasal) Babore Temples (in Manwal) which have the strong historic value attached with it , Krimchi in Udhampur, Bageh Mata , Pingla Mata(Dist Udhampur) Chountra Mata , Chcichi Mata (Dist. Smaba). So these pilgrimage sites deserve to be popular.
Tourism in J&K in one of the most important sectors of economy. Being the largest service industry, tourism is a significant contributor to the State GDP, foreign exchange for the century, provides wide spread employment, yields tax revenue etc. J&K has immense potential for tourism from both domestic as well as international tourists. It has also a tremendous potential to become a major global tourist destination. Importance of tourism in J&K economy is known for decade now. Tourism in J&K is multi segmental industry providing different types of jobs like hotels, manager, guides, tour operators, chef etc which further strengthens the J&K economy by increasing income and standard of living of the people. Tourism acts as a catalyst in the development of backward and for far flung regions of those particular areas. Same is the case of J&K where tourists are attracted towards the area which is located in the remote regions of the State.Tourists visiting such unexplored attractive spots can give boost to the economic condition of the residents by promoting local and like Handicrafts, Handlooms, Cricket Bat industry and Ayurveda. It has been estimated that handicrafts(woods carving, Pashmina shawl) in J&K generate a revenue of more than Rs. 1,000 cr. With about 4-5 lakh artisans being employed in the sector (J&K Economic Survey).
J&K is also suitable destination for several other types of tourism which are yet to be explored like Adventure Tourism, Medical Tourism, Economic Tourism, Polo Tourism , etc. Handicraft of J&K like Pashmina Shawl and Paper Machie is famous in the whole world.But here are various problems of tourism industry in J&K like poor road connectivity and transportation facilities, lack of basic hygienic amenities at halting point, communication gaps, untrained guides, etc. The privatisation of tourism sector can help to fill the gap by providing efficient and highly skilled manpower and develop the necessary infrastructure to exploit the booming tourism sector in J&K.
Tourism acts as a catalyst in the development of the backward and far flung areas of particular region. Developing of tourism industry is responsible for generating direct as well as indirect employment. Terrorism and conflicts create obstacles in the path of development of J&K. Strikes, Curfew, Stone Pelting, prevents the tourists from visiting the J&K.
J&K is heavily dependent on pilgrims and tourists for revenue and employment. This sector has been a saviour for even unskilled workers as it provides direct employments to guides, Ponywallas, jobs in hotels, houseboats, besides those working in allied sectors like handicrafts, handlooms and transport.
Due to terrorism and conflicts J&K lags far behind in term of economic development as compared to other states. Moreover, the government does its level best to provide more security to pilgrims. However, more and more areas should be explored as tourist spots which will help the government in earning revenue which will ultimately help in development of J&K.
(President Jammu Kashmir Tourist Trade People’s Federation JKTTPF) a Regd. society.)
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