Amid foreign tourist arrivals to India witnessing 8.4 percent growth over last year, Kashmir continues to fail in attracting foreigners in large number reveals union tourism ministry figures.
The number of foreign tourist arrivals in January, 2018 was 10.66 lakh as compared to FTAs of 9.83 lakh in January, 2017 and 8.45 lakh in January, 2016, the official figure reveals.
However, Kashmir's lone airport, Srinagar international Airport doesn't find any mention among airports which welcomed foreigners, thus highlight the plight of Kashmir's tourism sector.
"Percentage share of FTAs in India during January 2018 was highest at Delhi Airport (28.03%) followed by Mumbai Airport (17.47%), Haridaspur Land Check Post (7.63%), Chennai Airport (7.17%), Goa (6.19%), Bengaluru Airport (5.16%), Kolkata Airport (4.81%), Cochin Airport (3.77%), Ahmadabad Airport (3.01%), Hyderabad Airport (2.56%),Gede Rail Land Check Post (1.82%), Trivandrum Airport (1.56%), Tiruchirapalli Airport (1.25%), Ghojadanga Land Check Post (1.11%), Amritsar Airport (1.01%)."
While beautiful locales, serene environment once used to attract horde of backpackers to Kashmir from foreign countries but post 1990s eruption of armed struggle and resultant conflict situation resulted in adverse travel advisories by various countries to their citizens advising them against visit to this state. However despite the improvement in situation, the negative travel advisories continue to mar Kashmir's tourism sector.
Most of the European countries, the US, Australia and other nations have put in place negative travel advisories to their citizens which as per tourism players and traders have never allowed them to come out of the recession in business.
"Unfortunate thing is that tourism in Kashmir has become a victim of travel advisory though foreign countries review their advisories on time to time basis, but JK has been an exception as the advisories continue to remain in force despite the situation on ground improving vastly," said chairman, JK Hoteliers club, Mushtaq Chaya.
Even though Germany in 2012 lifted the travel advisory, but UK still bars its citizens from visiting certain places in Jammu and Kashmir. The advisory by UK has put in place an advice against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir with the exception of (i) travel within the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, (ii) travel by air to the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, (iii) travel between these two cities on the Jammu-Srinagar highway and (iv) travel within the region of Ladakh. The tourist destinations of Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg fall within the areas to which the nation advises against all travel.
A senior tourism official told Greater Kashmir that the JK government has limited role in getting the travel advisories lifted by the foreign countries. "However we are pursuing our case in the central government and have also sought help of external affairs ministry to convey the message to Ambassadors of the countries who have put negative travel advice to their respective citizens."
He said that the government is hopeful that the advisories would be lifted soon. "In the recent past, many Ambassadors of foreign countries including Australia visited Kashmir where the state government conveyed them the issue of negative advisories which the foreign delegates assured to take up with their respective governments."
The percentage share of Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in India during January 2018 among the top 15 source countries was highest from Bangladesh (16.36%) followed by USA (14.10%), UK (10.81%), Canada (4.63%), Russian Federation (4.49%), Australia (3.60%), France (2.76%), Germany (2.64%), Malaysia (2.63%), Sri Lanka (2.59%), China (2.27%), Japan (2.08%), Republic of Korea (1.93%), Afghanistan (1.86%) and Nepal (1.59%).