Covid-19 adversely affected nascent tourism sector in AJK: report.

ISLAMABAD -- The bulging tourism sector has suffered horrendously in Azad Jammu and Kashmir leaving almost half a million people associated with the industry high and dry because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A research report published by a non-governmental organisation, the Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR) says over 48,000 individuals in the state have so far contracted Covid.

Titled Azad Jammu and Kashmir: Impact of Covid-19 on Marginalised Communities, the report notes that Covid-19 had a severe impact on most sectors but the nascent tourism sector in AJK was one of the worst-hit sectors.

The people of AJK have heavily banked on domestic tourism for their livelihoods for the last couple of years. During the pandemic, hundreds of hotels and guest houses as well as the tour operators, drivers and workers had been out of work while the people who were indirectly relying on tourism-related activities were also left with no job.

Over the years, AJK has emerged as a major tourist destination for domestic tourism. In 2018, over 1.4 million tourists visited AJK. The influx of tourists then increased to 1.5 million in 2019.

Keeping in view the potential increase in the number of tourists heading to the region, massive infrastructure was built in recent years, particularly in areas like the Neelum Valley and Poonch. The government of AJK had got several tourist resorts renovated in Kotli, Poonch and Muzaffarabad districts. However, Covid-19 has slowed down all development plans and brought the tourism industry to a halt.

The report highlights that the pandemic hit the poor in AJK the hardest as strict lockdowns and the cessation of various economic activities caused major income cuts for them in the region. Worst, shelling and firing by India from across the Line of Control (LoC) also continued during this period, which forced the people to face a double...

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