News / Asia

Indian-Kashmir Tourism Ebbs and Flows With Waves of Violence

Indian-Kashmir Tourism Ebbs and Flows With Waves of Violencei
X
September 13, 2013 4:11 PM
Many Kashmiris can remember when calm returned to the Himalayan region following nearly two decades of insurgent violence. Militant attacks dropped after India and Pakistan signed a 2003 cease-fire deal, transforming Indian-controlled Kashmir’s economy. Aru Pande reports from Srinagar.
Indian-Kashmir Tourism Ebbs and Flows With Waves of Violence
Aru Pande
Many Kashmiris can remember when calm returned to the Himalayan region following nearly two decades of insurgent violence.
 
Militant attacks dropped after India and Pakistan signed a 2003 cease-fire deal, transforming Indian-controlled Kashmir’s economy. Gulzar Beigh stopped working as a laborer and instead rented a boat, or “shikara,” to ferry a new surge of visitors to the valley. He made an average of $250 a month last year.
 
“Tourism really improved here in the last eight years. The number of tourists increased,” Beigh said as he paddled his shikara across Dal Lake.  “My friends and neighbors are all involved in the industry, some sell jewelry, some sell shawls.”
 
In Srinagar, travel agency and restaurant owner Kaiser Bhat says the city almost transformed overnight. As violence subsided, religious pilgrims and tourists flocked to what many call the Switzerland of South Asia.  Bhat recalls how in 2006, as new hotels and houseboats sprung up, they were quickly overbooked.
 
“You won’t believe it but there were people who literally slept on this road because after so long Kashmir became open,” Bhat said, pointing to the street that encircles Dal Lake. “There were people who had not been to Kashmir for the last 20 to 25 years.”

Headlines affecting tourism
 
While Kashmir’s tourism industry has seen a boom in the last few years, attracting as many as 1.2 million visitors to the region, locals say it only takes one attack or the threat of violence to scare people away.
 
Bhat’s restaurant, Kareem’s, is just meters away from Dal Lake’s waterfront. He says during the peak tourist month of May, people have a tough time getting a table.  On this day, only one other person, a foreigner, is enjoying the restaurant’s Kashmiri specialties.
 
Outside, the sidewalks surrounding Dal Lake are mostly empty along with the many hundreds of houseboats that should be packed with Indian and foreign tourists.
 
Houseboat Owners Association head Azim Tuman says Indian Kashmir was set for another great year with tourists who booked their trip to the region early. Then in February, convicted Indian parliament attacker and Kashmiri native Afzal Guru was hanged. Tuman says many tourists cancelled their plans, fearing violent protests.
 
“There was some stone-pelting because people were angry. That step was taken in haste and at a wrong time, because it was the beginning of our tulip season, when we expected a lot of tourists to visit Kashmir,” said Tuman.
 
Unlike many other Indian cities that come to life once night falls, Srinagar is quiet, with many stores closing in the early evening hours even when no curfew is in force.
 
Inside his shop, Amir Hussain folds the embroidered shawls and gets ready to pack up after another lackluster day of sales. His business has seen far fewer customers since Afzal Guru’s execution.  Hussain says visitors are also scared away by the sporadic cross-border shootings that draw headlines, but happen far from the main town.
 
“They [the government] can speak out and tell people that wherever the unrest is happening is 1,200 kilometers or very far from Srinagar to reassure them that there is no problem and that they can safely visit,” he said.

Getting the word out
 
In fact, many of the tour operators and hotel owners say the government should do more to encourage tourists to visit Indian-controlled Kashmir.
 
Kaiser Bhat says attracting visitors mainly falls on the shoulders of the tour operators and others in the industry.  He says he has traveled throughout India and to Southeast Asia to spread the word about the Himalayan region and reassure potential visitors who may have safety concerns.
 
“If people come to Kashmir, it’s 90 percent effort of the people who are related to tourism, rather than the government,” he says.
 
Bhat says the area is not properly promoted.  The travel agency owner cites the example of the 18-hole Royal Springs Golf Course overlooking Dal Lake, often called one of the most picturesque in Asia.  He says the government should be offering packages for the public golf course and working to ensure early morning and late night flights are available for golfers flying in and out of Srinagar.
 
Back on Dal Lake, boatman Gulzar Beigh says he is optimistic that increased stability will mean more visitors taking in the Himalayan mountains that grace the valley.
 
“If it stays peaceful here, then the world famous place of Kashmir will be popular again,” said Beigh. "We all hope, including visitors who come here, that Kashmir will become a peaceful place.”

Photo Gallery:

  • A boat on Dal Lake in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir. (Aru Pande/VOA)
  • Empty boats or "shikaras" line Dal Lake in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir. (Aru Pande/VOA)
  • Shikaras in Dal Lake in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir. (Aru Pande/VOA)
  • Shops bordering Dal Lake in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir. (Aru Pande/VOA)
  • Boatmen await passengers at Dal Lake in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir. (Aru Pande/VOA)
  • Security forces stationed on Srinagar bridge, Indian Kashmir. (Aru Pande/VOA)
  • Dal Lake in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir. (Aru Pande/VOA)

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: henrycastro
September 25, 2013 3:51 AM
Tourism really improved in Kashmir. The valley of Kashmir is known for its beauty and charm.
Kashmir is just like a Himalayan Paradise on the earth. Kashmiri’s love dance and music, and festivals .It provide them the opportunities to enjoy themselves. The ancient caves and temples of Kashmir reveal a strong link between Kashmir and South Indian cultures . Kashmir tourism Amarnath yatra will be amazing. It is a beautiful temple situated in Kashmir. Sadly, now Kashmir is a targeted city of terrorists. Law and order situation is better now and foreign as well as Indian tourists are visting Kashmir in large numbers.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
September 13, 2013 8:29 PM
I would love to visit the Swizerland of South Asia. The phote shows its spectacular and quiet scenery.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs