Tourism was one of the casualties as Pulwama-attack and its aftermath brought India and Pakistan perilously close to an all-out war. Kashmir suffered the most as tourists steered clear of the valley, resulting in a near washout of seasonal business in the months of February and March. Jammu and Ladakh, thankfully, fared better. Ladakh remained aloof of recent developments and adventure and leisure tourism went on unabated. Religious and spiritual tourism in Jammu also did not register any noticeable drop in numbers, local industry stakeholders told us.
Former state tourism secretary and now a politician, Farooq Ahmed Shah echoed positive sentiments and expressed faith in Indian tourists, noting that visitors from several states had continued to support the tourism sector in the valley, even during the more troubled days of the insurgency. He recounted how tourists from Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal had kept the sector afloat in the 1990s. “Jammu and Kashmir is the best destination in the country and offers a unique amalgamation of products and experience that one cannot find elsewhere,” he further said. He suggested that the state had many experiential products, including its rich cuisines, which were in-sync with the new-age demand for experiences.
Batting for tourism as a binding force for the nation, he noted that the sector could yet again play a significant role in bringing together people and sustaining the local ecosystem dependent on tourist inflow. Hoping for better days for tourism in the state, he assured that the sector was going to assume greater significance with National Conference in power, under the leadership of Omar Abdullah. He suggested that he was ready to play a more meaningful role in the sector, in his new innings as a politician. “Whatever I will do, I will surely be involved in tourism in one way or the other,” he said.