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 British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid