‘No substantial impact of religious tourism on JK economy’
Despite promotion and campaigns, religious tourism does not add value or make any impact on the economy of the state, Jammu Kashmir government has said in a recently released report.
Though the number of pilgrim tourists to the state has reached to more than 8 million people in 2014 and 15, however, there are not considerable economic benefits from this kind of tourism to the state, according to the recently released Economic Survey 2016.
"In view of the fact that pilgrim tourists do not add much value to the economy of the region therefore, the increase in number of pilgrim tourists to Jammu or Kashmir does not make substantial impact on economy of the region excepting that it increases some economic activities in the local vicinity of pilgrimage places," reports the Economic Survey.
The Economic Survey has been released after a gap of one year and complies data for 2015-16 and 2016-17, with an outlook for the coming financial year.
The survey says as the pilgrim tourists do not undertake luxury tours, therefore, they spend less making little impact on the state economy.
"Pilgrim tours are specifically of very short duration which last for 2 to 3 days where as luxury tourists stay for more than 7 days," it says, adding, "It is the luxury tourist which adds to the economy, as luxury tourists stay in hotels enjoy eating in restaurants, use shikaras, taxies, Ponies, cable car etc. Besides, luxury tourists purchase gift items for themselves and for their relatives. Thus, the luxury tourist adds value to the economy."
The survey in a sub-chapter, 'J&K Economy with and without conflict in comparison to the state of Himachal Pradesh' while making inferences of the comparative data of the two states (JK and HP) says the tourist inflow to JK for the year 2015 and 2014 were respectively 92.03 lakh (9.2 million) and 95.25 lakh (9.5 million). However, the majority of these tourists, more than 8 million, comprise of pilgrim tourist, reveals the survey.
"… the magnitude of pilgrim tourists during 2015 and 2014 to Jammu province was 77.77 lakh & 78.03 lakh, the magnitude of pilgrim tourists to Kashmir valley was 3.53 lakh & 3.73 lakh," says the survey.
"On the contrary, tourist inflow to the state of Himachal Pradesh for the said years i.e. 2015 & 2014 stood at 175.31 lakh and 163.14 lakh tourists respectively,"
Comparing the tourist numbers of 2015 and 2014, the survey says the tourist inflow to JK is almost half of HP, 'despite the fact that JK state particularly Kashmir valley has tremendous scenic beauty/tourist spots than that of state of Himachal Pradesh'.
The negligible impact of the pilgrim tourism on the state economy has got revealed by the Economic Survey at a time when the consecutive governments in Jammu and Kashmir have put tremendous focus on the promotion of religious tourism with the help of central government.
For catering to increasing rush of pilgrim tourists and boost further inflows of pilgrims, state is developing three pilgrimage tourist circuits: Sufi Circuit in Kashmir, Buddhist Circuit in Ladakh and Temple (Spritual) Circuit in Jammu with the help of central government.
"We have so many shrines of great Muslim saints, famous temples and historic 'Gompas' in our State which can attract large number of pilgrims," Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said, in a function at Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah, Shahadra Sharief in June 2016.
The promotion of religious tourism and development of the three pilgrim circuits has got further impetus with the centre government's Rs 500-crore fund under Swadesh Darshan scheme. Under Swadesh Darshan, Government of India has identified 13 thematic circuits, including three religious circuits of JK, for development.