(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer)
TOURISM across the world has returned to 65 percent of the pre-pandemic level in 2022, in a sign that the world economy is slowly recovering from the depredations wrought by the Covid-19 contagion. An estimated 700 million tourists travelled internationally between January and September, more than double the number recorded for the same period in 2021, according to the new data revealed by UNWTO. Travel, the tourism body said, was boosted by strong pent-up demand, improved confidence levels and the lifting of restrictions in an increasing number of destinations. Europe has led the rebound of international tourism with the region welcoming 477 million international arrivals in January-September 2022 which is 68 percent of the world total. India along with the countries such as Germany, Belgium, Italy, the United States, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia reported strong tourism inflow in the first six to nine months of 2022.
According to the recent India Travel Market Report by Phocuswright, the Indian travel market will continue its impressive growth to reach USD 32 billion in gross bookings by 2023. The recouping of the travel industry, the report said, is fuelled by exclusive deals and packages by industry players. With innovative amenities and multiple authentic experiences, they are attracting a portion of the market. Travel market growth in 2023 will be driven by international destinations and reducing foreign travel uncertainties, despite domestic travel dominating in 2022.
Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a tourism boom this year. And incidentally, 43 percent of the tourists are pilgrims to two Hindu shrines — Vaishno Devi in Jammu and Amarnath in Kashmir. Around 3.65 lakh pilgrims visited the Amarnath shrine this year and 65 lakh visited Vaishno Devi. The union territory has received the highest-ever tourist footfall of 1.6 crore this year, and the administration expects the number to cross two crore by the end of this year.
With winter approaching, the tourist inflow is only going to further increase. The Valley's upper reaches have already received snowfall. Affarwat in Gulmarg and Pir Panjal range of mountains have been draped in white blanket of snow for some time now. Snowfall in the Valley has been traditionally a great attraction for the people in mainland India, since snow is a novelty for them.
Tourism, one of the mainstays of the Kashmir economy, is one of the sectors that has been hit the hardest over the two years following the abrogation of Article 370 with successive Covid -19 lockdowns also crushing the sector. As a result, a large section of people was largely without employment. Their savings had been depleted. This included also the people associated with tourism. Here's hoping that things improve from hereon. The waning pandemic and the return of normalcy has created conditions for unhindered tourism in the Valley. The future looks bright if things stay the same way.
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