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

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid