While Kashmir is known to be a great tourist destination, it’s counterpart Jammu is also not far behind in attracting tourists and earning huge revenue for the state. However, the major difference between these two regions has been that Kashmir attracts people for it’s physical beauty, and nice environment the Jammu region is a hub of pilgrimage tourism with Mata Vaishno Devi shrine being the major attraction. The hill station of Patnitop, and adjoining Mantalai and Kud have also been strong attractions. Though the hilly areas of Doda, Bhaderwah and Kishtwar also have great tourism potential but lack of good roads, and facilities has kept them off the tourism map. In fact there are many great trekking trails in these hills which connect Jammu to Kashmir Valley, and even Himachal Pradesh but due to terrorism, and other factors this industry has remained a laggard in Jammu province.
Jammu city in itself is a tourism destination with a number of temples, markets, and surrounding areas which have been a major attraction for the visiting public. However with the train reaching Katra there is fear among the people that this city could lose out on the tourist trade. There are hundreds of hotels in Jammu, and a large number of people are dependent on this business. In Jammu, those related with tourism trade have been demanding strong steps to develop the city and the region around it into an independent tourist circuit. This will require the government to take on priority tourism related projects that include the completion of a lake in River Tawi where water could be stored for water rides, water sports, and several related things boosting the tourism traffic, along with this a rope-way connecting heritage sites starting from Mubarak Mandi to Mahamaya temple could go a great way in adding to the experience of visitors, the Manda wild life sanctuary could be made more visitor friendly, and the environment park on By-pass road could be turned into a great asset for the city as well as visitors. Another great tourist place could be the Suchetgarh border where visitors from across the country could have a real time experience of the border. There is also a need to upgrade the Jammu Bust Stand, Railway Station, and airport to ensure that entry and exit of the tourists is smooth, and without any hassle.
Branching out Kayaking could be introduced in Mansar and Surinsar lakes aparts from river rafting which can be started in River Chenab. The hilly areas of Jammu province like Bahaderwah, Doda, and Kishtwar on one side, and Rajouri, Poonch and Thanna Mandi on the other side add to the hilly quotient of this province, and if the government and the people can combine together then there could be a great boost to the tourism in this region. Bhaderwah has colourful landscape, beautiful hills, and small valleys with people brimming with enthusiasm. It also has rich folk and cultural traditions, and there are several spots in these hills which can be developed into tourist spots. The need of the hour is to develop tourist infrastructure which includes good roads, bridges, hotels, restaurants, handicrafts, and good connectivity with Himachal as well as people could also visit the state from that side. Along with these areas the government should also develop the Chenani, Kud, Patnitop circuit which has already established itself among the visitors. The need is to induce more pilgrim to Mata Vaishno Devi to visit these places, and extend their stay and enjoy the hills of Jammu. A large number of people could also visit Poonch for the Budda Amarnath Yatra, and other beautiful spots in the hills of Poonch, Mandi, Rajouri, and these areas which are full of history and culture. There are beautiful forts, temples, and mosques in the hills of Poonch Rajouri steeped in history that can attract the masses and the classes provided these are marketed well.
In Jammu city, it is important that basic infrastructure is improved, and all the markets like Raghunath Bazar and other such shopping areas are given a facelift. The area around important temples also needs to given a new look, and it is important that visitors should given a feeling of being at home in the city of temples. The visitors should be motivated to visit the Bagh-e-Bahu and the temple of Bawe-wali Mata, the Mubarak Mandi complex, the Amar Mahal. The government could also develop a food court on the lines of ones developed in Delhi and Gurgaon where good quality local delicacies and produce is made available at the right price. If these small steps are taken by the government which is into a rebuilding mode in the state after the recent floods it would not be wrong to say Jammu will witness a speedy tourism revival. However, if the mistakes of the past are repeated then it is unlikely that things will change for the tourism trade in Jammu as well as for the people who are dependent on this important industry.