During the Kashmir unrest of 2010 and 2016, Kashmir tourism suffered a huge set back which was already in a bad shape for a pretty long time. In those years such times also arrived when no foreigner was seen in the valley except few journalists who had merely come to perform their professional duties. Reasons are best known to everybody.
Tourism being a peacetime activity, why would anyone risk his/her life in the pursuit of a holiday?
A person needs peaceful environment and stability to enjoy his holidays. Tourism sector in turmoil period could offer neither of these environments to its visitors. They changed directions instead of coming to Kashmir they found it bit suitable to move to Ladakh and other Himalayan regions. These lands experienced good number of visitors.
No doubt the industry which has almost collapsed is nowadays on its revival, the state government has initiated several steps to restore the valleys tourism.
However there are other challenges to the overall tourism sector in Kashmir which also need to be addressed. Among them, the most pressing is the human vandalism that is turning beautiful places into ugly spots where nature seems taking a secondary position than monstrous constructions. Such ugly constructions are coming up rapidly at the places where otherwise deserve more planned and minimal construction. Kashmir is losing its green gold like anything and the overall green patches- be it civil forestry, orchids, roadside greenery and even agricultural fields are vanishing fast owing to the unplanned constructions that are popping up in the most haphazard manner.
The cultural vibrancy- be it the folk theatre, cultural functions or performances, traditional forms of information as well as entertainment- have disappeared and it is very rarely that one witnesses such an activity.
Our monuments and archaeological sites which have been offering some taste of intellectual nature to different visitors have taken a back seat and none of the historical monument is presented to the world by way of keeping information available regarding the same. Most of the monuments are neglected and lack basic preservation and conservation.
As everyone knows that it is the scenic beauty, salubrious climate and the monumental glory of this land which has been attracting large number of tourists from distant places since long, steps must be taken to ensure that all such things are put in order and a proper mechanism of conservation and maintenance is put in place.
Things were normally and Kashmir had become the destination for the western tourists, notes Kashmiri historian P N K Bamzai stating: Once Kashmir Maharaja had a threat that Europeans many not use this land as their colony. G T Vigne, the European visitor who arrived here during Maharajas period had felt that Kashmir will become the sine qua non for the oriental traveller. Maharaja was brought under pressure by British authorities to acquire and own land in Kashmir for British. It is said that they had an intention to settle their retired officers here and to make it their permanent colony. Fortunately Maharaja did not come under pressure and he is said to have sought the help of few Kashmiri nobles to oppose the move. Few scholars link the introduction of houseboat by Europeans in Kashmir with this proposal. These houseboats were not only built but few of these also owned by British.
Let the tourism department pay more attention to various aspects of this sector and do the homework before inviting the world to this place! We have been bestowed with great riches of nature, culture and history- we need to be conscious of it at all levels.