August 2018 News

Foreign Travelers Give Kashmir A Miss

31 August 2018
Greater Kashmir
Mukeet Akmali

Srinagar: Foreign tourists have been giving Kashmir a miss with just under four lakh visits since 2000, official figures reveal, owing to negative travel advisories by several western countries and political violence in the valley. Once a favourite destination for many Western tourists, Kashmir received just 3.9 lakh foreign visitors in between 2000 and 2017, according to J&K statistics department figures. In contrast, the number of foreign tourists who visited Bihar last year is 10 times more than that of Kashmir. In fact, Kashmir doesn't figure in the list of 10 Indian states that account for the highest number of foreign tourist footfall. Despite state government and tourism department spending crores of rupees on officials visiting foreign countries for tourism promotion the efforts have failed in wooing backpackers from foreign countries. According to state government figures, major chunk of tourist arrivals in Kashmir are Indians who account for 95 percent of total volume of visitors to the valley of fabled beauty. Ladakh province has taken over Kashmir in attracting high-end foreign tourists. In 2017 Leh received more than 40 thousand foreign tourists to the high altitude cold desert are. A year before militancy erupted in 1990, more than 100,000 foreign tourists visited Kashmir every year. During the first decade of the armed insurgency, foreign tourist arrivals reduced to a trickle. The number has failed to pick up despite an improvement in the situation and expensive tourism promotion programmes undertaken by the state government in foreign capitals. According to the union tourism ministry, the top 10 states that account for the bulk of foreign tourist arrivals are Tamil Nadu (4.72 million), Maharashtra (4.67m), Uttar Pradesh (3.16m), Delhi (2.52m), West Bengal (1.53m), Rajasthan (1.51m), Kerala (1.04m), Bihar (1.01m), Goa (0.68m) and Punjab (0.66m). A senior tourism official told Greater Kashmir that the J&K government has limited role in getting the travel advisories against visiting Kashmir lifted by foreign countries. 'However, we are pursuing our case in the central government and have also sought help of external affairs ministry to convey the message to Ambassadors of the countries who have put negative travel advice to their respective citizens.' The official said that the government was hopeful that the advisories would be lifted soon. 'In the recent past, many Ambassadors of foreign countries visited Kashmir where the state government conveyed to them the issue of negative advisories which the foreign delegates assured to take up with their respective governments.' Most European countries, the US, Australia and other nations have advised their citizens against travelling to Kashmir. Germany had in 2012 lifted the negative travel advisory, but the UK still bars its citizens from visiting certain places in Jammu and Kashmir.