Tourism: There is more Jammu and Kashmir than Srinagar, Gulmarg

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Wahid Bhat |SRINAGAR

Kashmir’s scenic beauty its snow-clad mountains, freshwater lakes and vast meadows are often compared to Switzerland; but it also boasts a long, rich history and heritag

Take prolonged offs from their normal schedule days to have a visit of Jammu & Kashmir where they achieve some solace out of beautiful enjoyment.

Jammu & Kashmir is not only known for its tourism but various pilgrimage destinations also fascinate the people living outside state and outside country even.

The pilgrimage places include Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji Shrine (Katra), Shri Amar Nath Ji Shrine, (Pehalgam), Matta Kher Bhawani, (Srinagar), Shahdara Sharief (Rajouri), Dargah-e-Sharief Hazratbal (Srinagar), Ashmuqam (Pehalgam), Baba Rishi (Tangmarg) etc, where people in great number visit to pay their obeisance. As far as tourism point of view is concerned, the places which are worth to see include Pehalgam, Gulmarg, Mughal Gardens, Doodpathri, Ladakh in Kashmir Division and places like Patnitop, Bagh-e-Bahu, Harki Poudi, Jagger Kotli and Manser in Jammu Division.

Sonamarg is located at an attitude of 2730 meters above sea level. It is the place which is a gateway to Leh Ladakh. Patnitop a beautiful picnic spot is surrounded by the wealth of Deodar forestry.

Tourists are attracted by its scenic environment. Most of the tourists like to make comfortable halt at Patnitop while visiting the various tourist resorts of the valley. Pehalgam is a place situated at the bottom of the hills leading to Shri Amar Nath Ji cave.

Gulmarg is one of the famous hill resorts originally called Gurimarg by Shepherds. Mostly foreign tourists often visit Gulmarg. Doodpathri is one of the beautiful hillocks, where tourists often like to visit. Bahu-fort (Bagh-e-Bahu) located in the midst of Jammu city originally built by Raja Bahu-Lochan some more than 3000 years back.

Mughal Gardens located on the bank of the Dal Lake with Zaberwan hills all around which commands magnificent view of the Dal Lake. In view of this, the tourism industry in the state has assumed lot of importance. By paying visits every year by the tourists from outside and Jammu & Kashmir, the entrepreneurs operating their business in the state are able to uplift their business establishments in a very larger way.

They earn their due profits through the flourishing sale of their products to the outside visitors. Whenever any visitor intends to visit pilgrimage destination like Mata Vaishno Devi Ji Temple, the locals of the township of Katra who have set up their trade establishments at Katra do receive opportunity to make large-scale sale of their products to the yatries en-route at Katra & other adjoining areas leading to the Mata Vaishno Devi Ji cave.

Similar is the case with the taxi and transport operators who are also able to see their business flourishing during tourist season. Again, the Shikara operators around the beautiful Dal Lake in the valley keep their boats always available to the tourists for the latter’s amusement purposes.

According to the J&K Economic Survey (2017-18), the tourism sector accounts for around 9 percent of the state’s GDP. However, J&K is not among the top 10 domestic destinations in the country on the basis of number of tourist arrivals.’

In fact, tourist arrivals to J&K fell in 2016 and saw a moderate upswing in 2017. According to the economic survey, tourist arrivals for the year till October 2017 were at 7.3 million (Jan-Oct 17). The state government is hopeful of achieving a figure close to more than 10 million this year.

Tourism plays a key role in the economic development of a state and in Kashmir has especially strong potential to become a big revenue generator, bringing in more employment to the local population as well as stability and goodwill in the region.

In fact, tourism has been identified as a sector with as much potential for growth in Kashmir as the primary industries here like agriculture and horticulture. According to Parvez Dewan, former tourism secretary, Government of India and former tourism secretary, J&K, “Unlike some ten years ago, where people would visit during spring and summer, Kashmir is now nearly a year-round destination, making it a very attractive holiday prospect,” he says.

Up-and-coming destinations

Ganderbal: Seven Lakes trek—Kishansar, Vishansar, Naranag, Gadsar and Gangabal. The trek route to Harmukh Mountain is a big draw for foreign tourists

Kupwara/Handwara: Bungus Valley, Lolab Valley and the Ainch Mountain range (offering panoramic views of the Kashmir Valley), Keran and Karnah

Leh: Alchi, Matho and Spituk Monasteries, General Zorawar Fort, Stok Palace and Jamia Masjid. Also Turtuk, Nubra, Chang La and Lamayuru

Kargil: Drass, Mushkoo Valley, Suru Valley, Pensi La Lake, villages like Wakha Rgyal and treks to the Nun Ranges

Poonch: Valley of Seven Lakes—Sukhsar, Neelsar, Bhagsar, Katorasar, Kaldachnisar and Nandansar.