Kashmir remains an ideal tourist destination throughout the year and has something to offer for everyone. From the “valley of gold” to the “meadow of flowers” it is encircled by snow-capped mountains and opulent meadows. With lofty Himalayan mountains in north, vast green valleys with flowers, coniferous trees giving it perfect landscape to view. Large apple fields, snow fed rivers and lakes for boating, fresh mistiness within the air, sweet saffron tea to warm your hands and Roghan gosh to fill your stomach; Kashmir has been an exquisite delight for Bollywood shooting, nature lovers, family vacation on hot summer days and Hindu devotional pilgrimage to Amarnath yatra.
Other than its natural beauty, Kashmir also offers many adventure tourism opportunities with the style of trekking, skiing, paragliding, camping, rafting and mountain climbing. In March 2022, the area recorded highest tourism in 10 years. About 3,40,000 tourists have visited since January (80 lakh so far). The ongoing Amarnath yatra has added an expected number of 6-7 lakh in this month. There are various challenges such as sudden influx of tourist has overburdened the local development authorities to manage the smooth journey of tourist. As most of local workers are not familiar with non-local languages and their services doesn’t meet the expected standard of the tourist that adds to the challenges faced by tourism industry. Post Covid the influx of tourist has disturbed the eco sensitivity of tourism destinations. The political disturbances have put a huge setback for tourism in Kashmir and maintaining peace is the first requirement. They are also soft spots for anti-national elements. Despite being one of most beautiful and attractive tourist spots, most of the destinations in Kashmir have failed to be round the year tourist spots. The trend here has been in summers for destinations like Mughal gardens, Sonamarg and Pahalgam while most the tourists prefer Gulmarg in winters. Poor connectivity for tourism destinations in Kashmir especially in the far-flung areas. Safety and security of tourists still remains inadequate. Although dedicated helpline with toll free numbers for tourists have been provided but it adds little to the faith of visitors.
Laying of modern ropeway on the pattern of Gulmarg Gondola up to the Amarnathji shrine in Kashmir’s Pahalgam area will insulate the annual pilgrimage against the common disruptions like snowfall and landslides. Promoting and advertising tourism across India with different tour operators. Hop-on/ Hop-off bus services and e-vehicles must also be introduced at major tourist destinations in order to curb the traffic. Organising annual events for promotion of the adventure tourism with the respective adventure sports associations for skiing, paragliding, river rafting, mountain biking, car rally, trekking and endurance events. Fairs and festivals must showcase the unique culture and traditions to increase tourist arrival. The locals must encourage promotion of arts and crafts of Kashmir as part of cultural tourism. The tourism department must ensure safety and security of tourists by deploying tourist police in adequate numbers at Tourist places, life guards/ SDRF at rivers/ lakes along with suitable equipment. Coordination between Civil agencies and military authorities to assist in any unforeseen circumstances.
The local development authorities have realised that investing in tourism sector will boost the economic state of Kashmir very rapidly. It is evident from the fact that budgetary allocation has been increased by 786 crore this year. Government also wants to bring peace through development in otherwise restive J&K due to perpetration of terrorism. After spending almost, a year in Kashmir, seeing the unexplored beauty of the valley and travelling uninhabited locations I can say it with firm belief that Kashmir is still the heaven on earth.
Ideas, Opinions and Views expressed in articles are Writer’s own and may not be in accord with those of SUBAH KASHMIR