By Mahesh Kaul
Tourism cannot grow in isolation. The intangibility and multiplier effect that are inherent components of every tourism product make it special and delicate. Tourism is not just marketing of a destination area without creating a proper infrastructure for the tourist intake and thereby neglecting the carrying capacity. Tourism means value addition with changing customer demand and taste. If timely value addition of a tourism product is not made possible with professional skill then there is every possibility of its decay prematurely.
Value addition leads to prolonged tourist stay in the destination area. The longer the stay of the tourist in the destination area, the more is credibility quotient. Jammu has been the focus of attention primarily due to the pilgrimage tourism. And the source of attraction being the Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi. The planners and policy makers have not been able to expand the tourism circuit of Jammu properly beyond Mata Vaishno Devi. The reason being simple - the ignorance of heritage potential of the Jammu region. Jammu has been the seat of power and epicentre of rich cultural heritage. The forts, palaces, educational institutions being the tangible part of the folklores, and other art forms that are unique to this region. Both these aspects have not been focussed upon and well documented. If these aspects are incorporated into the tourism circuit in phased and planned manner when the tourism of Jammu region will be phenomenal success. As the focus has never been on heritage in technical terms - it has lead to the destruction of the heritage in this region.
Historical palaces, temples and forts are in shambles due to lack of proper conservation and preservation. If anywhere restoration has been carried out that too has been done with incompatible material. Thus altering the heritage character of building or monument.
The historic Mubarak Mandi is an apt example of vandalism, ignorance and lack of the sense of heritage on the part of one and all.
These are numerous examples of the lack of sense of heritage in the Jammu region.
This negligence has minimised the tourism potential of this region.
If the tourism potential of the Jammu region has to be made sustainable then the policymakers and tourism planners will have to understand that involvement of professionals at various levels from diverse fields is the need of the hour.
The tourist stay can be prolonged if the itinerary is crafted with professional skill. The involvement of historians, conservators, tourism management professionals and expert bodies like ASI is of paramount importance.
To create tourist gaze in Jammu region. We need to focus on the following crucial areas.
* Listing and documentation of heritage sites and monuments.
* Conservation and preservation of these sites and monuments.
* Incorporation of these sites and monuments into the tourism circuit.
* An analysis of the tourist carrying capacity.
We have no proper listing and documentation mechanism for the heritage sites and monuments. This has resulted in their vandalism and negligence. Once these sites and monuments are listed and documented it will lead to heritage tourism in this region.
The next stage should be to involve professionally trained conservators, architects and historians for their restoration so that these monuments and sites becomes the symbols of tourism of this region and add an element of sustainability to it. Once these sites and monuments are restored then these can be easily incorporated into the tourism circuit. This will be the real value addition to the tourism of the Jammu region.
This will also ease the pressure on the limited circuit of tourism due to Mata Vaishno Devi.
A proper frame work for the carrying capacity analysis should also be devised so that the tourist influx can be accommodated and managed properly.
Another aspect that needs special focus is that global climate challenge is posing a serious threat to the heritage structures all over the world. In the coming years, as per the UNESCO, prominent heritage sites will be out of the heritage list. This means that the heritage structures need special professional and technical attention if we want our posterity to know about their roots.
To sum up, Jammu tourism can be converted into sustainable tourism product if the above mentioned inputs are in corporated for its value addition