While the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on human lives and resulted in an unparalleled global health emergency, it also wreaked havoc on social and economic sectors. During the virus’s financial lockdown, millions of people lost their jobs and saw their wages plummet.
The travel and tourism industry, among others, has been the most hit, with planes grounded, hotels shuttered, and severe travel restrictions imposed across the globe.
In light of the enormous effect on the sector, World Tourist Day 2021 has added importance, as there is a pressing need to plan ways to bring the tourism industry back on track.
World Tourism Day 2021 has been designated by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to concentrate on tourism for inclusive growth. The UNWTO’s background note stated, “This is an opportunity to look beyond tourism statistics and acknowledge that, behind every number, there is a person.” The UNWTO wanted to celebrate tourism’s unique ability to ensure that no one is left behind as the world opens up again and looks to the future.
According to the organization’s background paper published on occasion, the epidemic, which is still ongoing, has driven an additional 32 million people into severe poverty by 2020. Women have been affected the hardest by the worldwide catastrophe created by the epidemic, particularly in least-developed nations. According to the UNWTO, one explanation for this is that they mainly operate in the pandemic-affected industries, including tourism.
World Tourism Day is observed annually on September 27th to raise awareness of tourism’s social, cultural, political, and economic significance and the sector’s potential contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Jammu & Kashmir has a significant position in terms of tourism since the industry is regarded as the backbone of the region’s economy. However, before the pandemic, the industry has consistently failed to reach its full potential due to various reasons. In other words, the tourist industry has remained unorganized despite numerous attempts to restructure it and increase its economic contribution to the area. The industry continues to be plagued by many issues. Of course, there are measures to eliminate the obstacles impeding the sector’s development. However, a systematic strategy to addressing the problems is required to re-establish the industry. We must investigate the issues of Kashmir and Jammu as soon as possible. Then solutions suited to each area should be developed and executed.
For example, we have a mixed tourist flow that includes pilgrims, sightseers, and people here for business, conferences, or other purposes. As a result, our tourist traffic is divided between pilgrims who visit Mata Vaishnodevi shrine and Amarnath Cave and international and local tourists who come for sightseeing, pleasure vacations, hiking, winter sports business, and other activities.
Consider the Jammu area, where pilgrim travel is the primary source of revenue. During the years of unrest, pilgrim travel in the Jammu area has remained untouched. The large number of pilgrims who visit each year testifies to the intense economical activity in the area. In Kashmir, the unrest halted tourist flow and created infrastructure gaps. As a result, when planning tourist marketing efforts, the Kashmir valley requires particular attention.
However, in Jammu, the current infrastructure needs to be upgraded. Pilgrimage is a significant part of a person’s life. People flock to important religious sites in huge numbers. Due to the high volume of pilgrims, there is a need for more hotels that can offer acceptable amenities for higher / upper-middle / medium class tourists and other visitors.
One of the essential points is who must use historical tourism to preserve the region’s broad, rich, and diverse legacy. We have a disadvantage in that the state has very little entertainment to offer visitors who may tap our rich cultural history into contemporary amenities such as music festivals, shopping, and sporting activities.
We must also take advantage of the increasing popularity of village-life tourism, often known as community tourism. Tourists have shown a strong desire to see rural life first hand. This kind of tourism has been a massive success in some regions of India, especially in the north eastern provinces, where locals have upgraded village infrastructure to attract visitors from all over the globe. Why can’t we look at the idea of community tourism? Villages that have been identified should be built in a contemporary manner while maintaining their natural environment.
Similarly, tourist marketing strategy in the ancient city requires specialized involvement. Exploring the city’s religious and historical aspects to attract visitors seems like a dream come true. But, first and foremost, a significant part of the city’s population, which operates the state’s cultural sector, must be economically engaged to give colour to tourist operations.
Tourism is, of course, the state’s economic backbone, but the cultural industry (handicrafts sector) is the backbone’s spinal cord. For generations, arts and crafts, particularly those created in the Shaher-i-Khaas, have been treasured possessions and have served as the foundation of our cultural sector.
Why not consider holding an annual “Golden Hands” event where local artisans demonstrate their skills and products? While the artisans may exhibit their work, they can also practise their skills, allowing visitors to observe how things are made and the finished products. It may market these festivals specifically to attract visitors who have shown a strong interest in Kashmiri arts and crafts. As a result, putting the artisan community at the centre of any tourist marketing effort in the Shaher-i-Khas makes sense.
Regarding tourist marketing, the finding of Triassic era fossil riches in Srinagar city by G. M. Bhat, a local geoscientist of worldwide renown, deserves particular attention. Essentially, this local geoscientist has a dream of creating a fossil park in Kashmir. He has been going to suitable locations outside the country on his own to seek worldwide support for the state of Jammu & Kashmir’s first-ever fossil park. He had even managed to persuade members of the world society to visit Kashmir to provide their knowledge and other assistance in developing the fossil park. However, the irony is that the local government seems uninterested in completing the project.
The finding of Triassic fossils at Guryul Ravines, Khonmoh-Vihi, 13 kilometres from Srinagar, was reported to the government in 2016. At the time, it was announced that an International Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park would be established shortly. However, this did not occur.
Ours has a varied physical landscape, a rich cultural legacy, and a tumultuous 5000-year past. Tourism has a critical role in exposing the rest of the world to such magnificent treasures from the past. Authorities must seize the opportunity presented by the fossil wealth and create a fossil park. An international Triassic Park in Kashmir would draw worldwide interest. It would remove people from all across the world, not only geoscientists. For students, academics, and scientists all around the globe, such a project would become one of the most treasured sites of learning.
I don’t believe money will be an issue. International financiers will be eager to invest in a fossil park like this, depicting life on Earth 250 million years ago. The authorities must demonstrate a great desire to see the idea of a worldwide Kashmir Fossil Park realized.
Meanwhile, all tourism-related development efforts must consider prospective visitors’ weak trust to instil in them a feeling of security about Kashmir. Furthermore, due to the delicate nature of its ecosystem, any tourist operation must be incredibly attentive to environmental issues. Connection – both on the road and in the air – should be prioritized.