Making Kashmir A Sustainable Tourism Destination

253

‘State Must Initiate Classification Of All Properties In Hospitality Sector’

Manzoor Pakhtoon

Vice Chairman, Houseboat Owners Association

Treasurer, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce And Industry

General Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Hotels and Restaurants Association

 

The early initiative taken by the J&K Administration to promote tourism in the region has borne fruit. All stakeholders, including the pony waalas, shikara waalas, taxi drivers – we included everyone to welcome the tourists following Covid protocol. The campaign was successful, and by the end of 2021, Kashmir was welcoming tourists.

High end tourists could not travel abroad due to Covid. Now they found that everything is here within the country. Hamare ghar mein sab kuchh hai. The message went out that Kashmir is a complete package as a tourism destination. All tastes are fulfilled here, from adventure to leisure to pilgrimages to beautiful nature and more.

We had a lot of budget and mid-segment traffic earlier from Gujarat and Maharashtra. Now people are not travelling in large tour groups. They come in small groups restricted to family and friends.

The demand has been so high that room rates have registered a fantastic increase. The kind of room rates we have in Kashmir now is almost unethical business. The hike is 300 to 400 times, which seems unbelievable.

Take for example a hotel in Gulmarg, where room rent was approximately Rs 5000 earlier. Now, it is in the range of Rs 18,000 to Rs 20,000. The room which cost Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 earlier is priced at Rs 40,000 or more. There are rooms even costing Rs 1 lakh or more.

In the short term, this may seem great, that the property owners are able to make so much money. The downside is that it spoils the destination. Slowly, a message may go out that Kashmir is too costly, and the facilities don’t match the fantastic charges. That will be damaging for the local tourism industry.

Budget and middle class tourists used to visit Kashmir round the year. If they start thinking that Kashmir is too costly, or that we cannot afford Kashmir, then it will be detrimental to our interest. Business ethics may spoil in the long run. That will not serve us well.

With increased popularity of Kashmir as a tourism destination, we may also become a hub for business tourism. We need more and better infrastructure to cater to those kinds of tourists.

New Destinations Hold Great Promise

There are many places in Kashmir which have amazing natural beauty and can flourish with the right degree of attention. These include Gurez, Yous Marg, Doodh Pathri, Sinthan Top. In South Kashmir, we have Kokernag, Verinag, Aharbal, Daksum. Achabal.

The UT Administration can develop tourist itineraries that will connect the beautiful spots of Kashmir, and develop them accordingly. We shall need more accommodation at these spots, and better infrastructure.

Tourism Development Addresses Unemployment

There is enough potential in the tourism sector in Kashmir to address the problem of unemployment here. The government can spearhead this initiative. All stakeholders shall naturally join hands to help, because this benefits all, and boosts the local economy.

CHALLENGES

Provide permits to buy luxury vehicles 

One major challenge is that high end tourists demand luxury vehicles, but we don’t have them. Permits for tourist vehicles have not been given for many years. These should be given to the deserving players. We have requested the Administration many times to allow permits to buy luxury commercial vehicles. But unfortunately this has not been looked into. So we only have the old Innovas for our high-end tourists. They demand new vehicles.

Classification Of All Properties In Hospitality Sector

We don’t have proper and official star rating of the properties in the hospitality sector in Kashmir. This should be done. Since there is no star rating, some online players are able to cheat the tourists. But this gives a bad name to Kashmir Tourism as a whole.

There is huge demand for tourism in Kashmir because of its amazing natural beauty, but some local or online players do not give accurate information regarding the classification of the properties, whether these are hotels or houseboats.

Government should undertake classification of all properties in the hospitality sector. This way, the client will know he is paying how much for what category of property. Otherwise today a room is priced at Rs 10,000 a night. Tomorrow the price of the same room is jacked up to Rs 30,000 on the basis of the demand and supply dynamics. But if the tourist doesn’t get the right facilities, he feels cheated. All of us stakeholders want to ensure that Kashmir stays a sustainable tourism destination.

State Must Improve Infrastructure At Virgin Tourist Spots

There are amazing destinations in Kashmir that can leave visitors spellbound. Gurez, Bangas Valley, Tosa Maidan. These are just a few names.

It does not help if the state makes just a few huts at these places in the name of tourist facilities. Thousands of tourists cannot be headed there if only a few huts are available.

The road to Gurez is still bad, though the place has breathtaking beauty. The state must improve the infrastructure there. Then the private players shall also come forward to support the tourism facilities. It shall be a win-win for all.

Need Additional Support For MICE Tourism

Now more and more tourists are again discovering Kashmir. We can expect Kashmir to emerge as a major destination for MICE tourism. For this we need additional infrastructure. We can expect Kashmir to emerge as a major destination for MICE tourism. This can be possible only if the government makes a policy decision to develop MICE Tourism in Kashmir, and enables the development of the support system accordingly.

 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here