Hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and “media hype around border issues with China” cast a pall on Jammu and Kashmir’s tourism prospects in 2013, said state tourism minister Ghulam Ahmad Mir.
Just 1.1 million tourists visited J&K last year in contrast to the 1.3 million in 2012. Statistics suggest the tourism department’s multi-crore promotional programmes across the country and abroad failed to make an impact.
“We could not touch the 2012 figures,” Mir said, adding 150,000 expected tourists, including foreigners, did not visit the state.
He attributed the dip to the hanging of Guru, convicted of the 2001 Parliament attack, on February 9 last year.
Street protests, curfews and shutdown calls by separatists crippled life in the Valley for almost two months after his execution. Guru was a native of Sopore, a town in northern Kashmir.
The hanging also hit J&K’s golfing season. “The golfing season starts from May. But due to the execution and subsequent disturbances, many elite golfers from across the country did not come,” said Nuzhat Jan, secretary of Srinagar’s Royal Springs Golf Course.
Mir, however, said despite the impact of Guru’s hanging, “we bounced back in the later part of the year”. Hopeful of a booming season in 2014, the tourism minister is now eyeing to promote virgin tourist destinations.
The number of foreigners visiting the state also dropped from 35,000 in year 2012 to 28,000 last year. “There was decrease in the number of foreigners visiting the Ladakh region this year. The media hype around the border issues with China made a dent,” Mir said.
Tourism is among the key contributors to the state’s economy and provides employment to large number of people. J&K has suffered a huge loss after separatist movements started in the state in the early 1990s.