Let revival of tourism be the focus

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The Khelo India – 2 has successfully concluded at India’s number one winter sports destination Gulmarg. Hundreds of athletes from some 27 states and Union Territories participated in the winter games festival that was virtually declared open by the Prime Minister. The event was organized by Union Sports Ministry in coordination with State Sports Council and Jammu and Kashmir Winter Games Association. Prime Minister in his inaugural speech made a commitment to make Kashmir the hub of winter sports and the commitment has been appreciated by all sports lovers besides the local populace.

Gulmarg is one of the world’s best skiing destination and the quality of snow here is unparalleled. However, unlike Cricket, winter sports has never been given much priority and that is the reason behind the fact that despite being the best destination, Gulmarg lacks the infrastructure necessary to attract more and more winter sports lovers from the rest of the country as well as from abroad. One may hope that while conducting the just-concluded event, the authorities would have understood that which areas need more focused attention to ensure that those desirous of participating in different winter sports are provided with all the requisite facilities. If the winter sports are taken seriously and infrastructure building is prioritized, Gulmarg will emerge as the world’s best and cheapest Skiing destination and the country’s winter sports lowers will be fully equipped to compete and shine on an international level.

By organizing Khelo India – 2 at Gulmarg, that too in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, the government has sent out a positive message that would help the resurrection of tourism sector in Kashmir. Post-August 05, 2019 followed by pandemic, the tourist footfall in Kashmir was reduced to almost Zero. However, this winter the situation took a dramatic turn. From December 2020, tourists started revisiting Kashmir and reports suggest that Gulmarg hotels and huts were fully occupied during December, January and February. With the successful conclusion of winter sports even, a message has gone out, louder and clear, that Kashmir is ready to host tourists.

Tourism sector is one of the important pillars of Kashmir’s economy. Government need to focus on this sector as people associated with it have suffered badly during past more than a year. Be it hoteliers, houseboat owners, shikara pullers, pony wallas, tourist guides, transporters – all have suffered a lot. These are the people who are directly involved with tourism sector. Then there are thousands of others who are indirectly involved with the sector. These include people dealing with Kashmir Arts, handicrafts, handlooms, even normal shopkeepers, everyone gets benefitted when tourists visit this place. Winter has shown some promise and government need to do a bit more. Campaigns should be launched all over the country to convince people that Kashmir is ready to host tourists with open arms. The Lt Governor administration should coordinate with the governments of all states and Union Territories to encourage people to visit Kashmir. It is now Spring and almonds, cherry and tulips would be blossoming soon. Like winter festival, let the administration announce the spring festival to attract tourist to see Kashmir in different colours.

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