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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

update At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid