Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Friday said the peaceful summer had witnessed a tourism boom as more than 13 lakh tourists, including pilgrims, visited the Valley.

"Due to normalcy this year, more than seven lakh tourists and over 6.5 lakh yatris (Amarnath pilgrims) visited Kashmir and contributed in enhancing economic activities which in turn helped a large chunk of population to earn their livelihood," he said after inaugurating several tourism projects in Sonamarg resort on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway.

He expressed hope that next year too more than eight lakh tourists would visit the state.

Omar said tourism was one of the main contributors to the state's economy and the sector had great potential for employment generation.

"This sector has always contributed in the economic welfare of the state and has great prospects for employment creation and all round progress in future," he said.

The Chief Minister underlined the speciality of the state as a preferred destination for nature lovers with wide-ranging potential for adventure and pilgrim tourism.

He stressed on the need for conservation and protection of this natural wealth. "This aspect needs to be undertaken as a mission," he said, asking all the stakeholders in tourism to play their role in this direction.

Omar said the maintenance of ecological balance should be given top priority while building facilities at health resorts.

The natural beauty and ambiance of these places should in no way be tampered with while creating necessary infrastructure, he said.