SrinagarThe travel and trade bodies from Kashmir valley and the cold desert region of Ladakh Thursday joined hands to promote Kargil as a tourist destination.
At an inter-regional meeting and workshop for various tourism bodies organised by Kargil Development Project (KDP), the travel and traders of both parts of the region agreed that there was a need to mutually promote tourism of both Kashmir and Ladakh, improve relations of the two regions, bridge the gaps and hold sustained dialogue between the tourist players and general people of Kashmir and Ladakh.
They said while Kashmir was well introduced among the tourists, and Leh attracted a good number of travellers, there was a need to promote Kargil as a separate holidaying and sightseeing destination.
The participants also called for promoting virgin tourist resorts and protecting environment.
Speaking on the occasion, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Kargil, Councilor, Feroz Kacho said Kashmiris had a role to play to bring Kargil and Leh on their tourist map.
He said the organisers KDP, a Kargil-based NGO, was contributing toward social services including health, education, emergencies and infrastructure besides working on tourism issues with the States Tourism department.
KDP is working in the region in collaboration with Ehsaas, Centre for Law and Development Policy (CLD), and Mool Sustainability Research and Training Centre.
The organisation first started working in the region in 1989 in collaboration with Save the Children.
All Ladakh Hotel and Guest House Association President, Tashi Motup Kau said there was a need to promote Kargil as a separate tourist destination.
He said Kargil could be sold as a two to three-day destination and tourists could be sent to visit places like Suru Valley in Kargil.
Kau also called upon Ladakhis to come forward to promote Kashmir.
If a Ladakhi comes forward and tells that there is no problem in Kashmir and that they visit the place with ease, people outside would take them seriously than some Kashmiri coming up with the same message, he said.
All Kargil Travel and Trade Association (AKTTA) President, Ahsraf Ali said the destiny of Kashmir and Kargil was inter-twined and people associated with the travel and trade industry in the region needed to promote one another.
Speaking on the occasion, Jammu and Kashmir Pilgrim and Leisure Tour Operators Forum (PILTOF) Nasir Shah said for the past year and a half, Kashmiri tour operators had been surviving only by promoting tourism in the cold desert region.
He said Kashmir tourism needs stability and due to the political situation during this period, the footfall of tourists to the Valley had been scarce.
However, he said the Kargil War of 1999 had been a blessing in disguise for Kargil as it had brought the region in focus with tourists wanting to visit the place where the war was fought.
Narrating her experiences of working in Kargil, KDP Consultant, Ezabir Ali said she had been working on Hunderman, a village situated on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kargil.
Ali said the village that was a part of Silk Route, the ancient network of trade routes that for centuries was central to cultural interaction of regions of East and West through Eurasia.
She said the people of the region had been living on the moving borders, sometimes being the residents of India and sometimes Pakistan.
Ali has been trying to make the women of the village the face of tourism by helping them set up kiosks and tea stalls.
A girl there is running a museum that has artifacts pre-1947, she said. The women groups there are active and ready to form alliances.
She also called for giving a push to the promotion of Kargil as a tourist destination.
Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF) President, Wahid Malik said there was a need of having better alliances between the travel and trader players of Kashmir and Ladakh.
Manzoor Ahmad Pakhtoon of the Jammu Kashmir Tourism Alliance raised the issue of communal frenzy being generated in Leh.
Calling for better tie-ups between the Ladakhis and Kashmiris, he said Kashmiri taxi drivers were not allowed to operate in Leh, which was not a healthy sign for Ladakhi tourism as it antagonized the Kashmiri drivers.
Pakhtoon said there was a need to press the government for making the Bollywood film makers making films in the State to shoot their films also in Kargil.
Athar Yameen Narwari of the Travel Agents Society of Kashmir called for organising a Kargil trip for Kashmiri travel agents to bring awareness among them about the destinations they could send the visiting tourists in Kargil.
He also called for bridging the gap between Kashmiris and Ladakhis and expressed hope that more such inter-regional meetings and workshops would be organised in the future.
Executive Director CLD, Shafaat N Ahmad called for promoting Kargil and Leh as educational tourism destinations.
He said schools that charge exorbitant fees could at least take their students to educational tours to these places and help them enrich their knowledge about other regions of the State.
Greater Kashmir Business Editor, Inam-ul-Haq said Kashmiris had now started travelling but while Kashmiris visited Jammu, they rarely visited Kargil or Leh.
Concurring with Ahmad, he said students could be taken to Kargil and Leh as part of educational tours during vocations.
Lubna Rafiqi of Srinagar Youth Works Kashmir said a lot needed to be done to work on the relationship of regions Kashmir and Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu, and Ladakh and Jammu.
She said there was also a need to bring women on board for promoting tourism and narrated her personal experience how officials in the Tourism department tried to discourage her when she applied for the license of tourist guide.
Tasleem Arif of CLD, Khair-un-Nisa of KDP and Shuaib Masoodi of Ehsaas, besides several others also spoke on the occasion.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.