a time when Kashmir is expecting a fall of more than sixty percent in its horticulture produce, the hospitality and the handicraft sectors are showing clear signs of revival. Visitors are coming in hoards.
Getting tourists to Kashmir is quite easy. As long as there is no violence of any kind, Kashmir would automatically be the first choice of at least one-third of the holiday-goers in the plains. This is because Kashmir has traditionally remained ingrained on the psyche of the post-partition generations as a major tourist destination. The other major factor that plays in the Vale’s favour is the visibly inexpensive services available compared to other destinations in neighbouring Himachal or places like Jaipur and Goa.
While the crowds are occupying every single space that Srinagar and other tourist destinations can offer, there is an urgent requirement of revisiting the policy. The high-end visitor is still skipping Kashmir simply because the standard of services that he requires is missing.
Kashmir needs three things immediately. Firstly, the restoration and renovation of the infrastructure that is already available. Part of this infrastructure is hostage to the security related affairs. The government should start permitting market forces to play the role rather than becoming a customer and occupier of the hotels, huts and other facilities.
De-hiring of the facilities would actually help the government make more money and improve its income. Secondly, the government needs to revisit the policy guiding the hospitality sector so that adequate regulations are there to ensure that the carrying capacity of tourist spots is not abused. Invasion like situations cannot be permitted on highly fragile picnic spots simply because Kashmir did not earn much for last many years. Short term gains may require a second thought for a long term survival.
And finally, a vast section of the hospitality sector that is frequently interacting with the visitor must have a crash course in managing things professionally. There are instances of duplicates being sold in the name of Kashmir which will adversely impact the ‘brand Kashmir’. Regulators must come out of the cosy environs to see how law guides them on these critical issues.
Policy makers should take into account the space matrix of the hospitality sector as well. It operates in an environment that is historically fragile by all standards. Impression at various levels that peace prevails because of proactive systems put in place may not be the whole truth. The reality is that the system skipped offering provocations that usually trigger mess. Efforts of over-dominating society are bad in practice and carry the potential of setting off chain reactions which need to be avoided at all levels.