LTC extension, a welcome step
In a welcome decision, the Union Government has extended by two more years, till September 25, 2024, the facility that allows its employees to visit Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and northeast while availing leave travel concession (LTC). The eligible central government employees get reimbursement of tickets for to and fro journeys, besides paid leave, when they avail LTC. The scheme allowing government servants to travel by air to the northeast region (NER), Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Ladakh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A&N) is extended for a further period of two years, from September 26, 2022 till September 25, 2024, an order issued by the personnel ministry said.
It goes without saying that people from mainland India are too keen to visit Kashmir and so are the government employees. By extending LTC facility, the Union Government has taken a major step to boost the tourism industry here. Interestingly government servants not entitled to travel by air are also allowed to travel by air in economy class by any airlines to any place in the northeast, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh from their headquarters directly.
Tourism industry in Jammu and Kashmir has had several rough patches during past more than three decades. However, with the improvement in the situation and untiring efforts made by the Union Territory Government and other stake-holders, this year, till date, proved a great success on tourism front. J&K received record number of tourists including the pilgrim ones. While the flow of tourists has helped the sector to limp back on the rails, it needs much more push to help the industry to grow in a big way to contribute to the economy of the UT. In this direction, the Union Government’s decision to extend LTC facility by two more years for its employees to visit J&K is a big step in right direction and will go a long way in giving a much needed flip to the tourism sector here.
That said, much depends on the local administration here to ensure making tourism a ‘round-the-year’ activity. On the infrastructure front, lot more is needed to be done besides ensuring facilities at virgin and hitherto unknown tourist destinations. Pilgrim tourism, heritage tourism, border tourism, adventure sports like skiing, mountaineering, hiking, bird-watching, golf etc have great potential here and the local administration should focus on ensuring all the requisite facilities to the tourists. We need to have some top-notch hotels, befitting the tastes of hi-end tourists here besides decent and affordable accommodations for the government employees who would be availing LTC facilities. The UT administration need to a close eye on all tourism related activities and ensure that some dirty fish in the trade don’t have a free hand to fleece the tourists. The tourism department should map all the hotels, guest houses, houseboats and other accommodations available for tourists here and in consultations with stake-holders should fix the tariff in accordance with the facilities available.
Secret of success of tourism industry is to analyse the repeat tourists. Goa or for that matter Kerala in India have highest number of tourists who visit these places more than once. The repeat tourism happens only if the visitors feel satisfied with the place, people and facilities available. It is the responsibility of those affiliated with the industry to ensure that tourists are treated so warmly that they don’t only decide to visit again but become the ambassadors of this place and influence others to visit.