Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

TAAK Presents a Memorandum to Central Inerlocutors Dealing With Employment

Rauf in his capacity as President of the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) presents a memorandum to the Central Committee exploring avenues for increased employment in Kashmir

(Mr. Rauf Tramboo, 52, was born and raised in Srinagar. He completed his school education at the Islamia High School located at Rajori Kadal, and his college degrees - B.Com. and LLB (Hons.) - from Islamia College of Science and Commerce located at Hawal. He is an Adventure Travel Consultant and an Adventure Tour Operator. His personal interests are reading, photography ane environmental advocacy.)

Travel Agents Association of Kashmir
Dar Complex, Khayyam Road, Srinagar 190001, Kashmir – India.
Tel: 2501490 Fax: 0194 2501491, Cell: 9419408084, E-mail:

Memorandum To

Dr.C.Rangarajan Committee for Jobs Plan in Jammu & Kashmir.

A brief about Kashmir’s Tourism background and potential:

The state of Jammu & Kashmir to which nature has been generous enough in bestowing it, with all that, which is essentially important to call it a destination with the tremendous and vast potential in both adventure & leisure tourism. More than the beauty, the people of the state, more importantly, are most friendly and hospitable in the world and all its three regions, Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu are so different and diverse in terms of culture, landscape and climate that makes the necklace of this state all the more unique, also, in the entire subcontinent Kashmir has oldest recorded history and a unique form of Shivism and Sufism is practiced here, its arts and crafts are famous world over and its archeological sites dates back to thousands of years, with all this treasure, there is a ample and tremendous scope for Jammu and Kashmir state to be number one on tourist map of India in adventure & pleasure tourism, yet alas! this tourist industry of Kashmir is ailing.

The tourism industry of the state which is the only viable industry more particularly in the Kashmir valley can prove itself an important driver of economic, social and cultural development. Tourism being a very wide field, the scope of employment generation in this sector is very bright as the potential is still largely untapped and this potential should be exploited fully to convert it into employment generation and poverty elevation. The employment opportunities exists both in the public and private sector. In the public sector, there are opportunities in the department of tourism as tourist officers, tourist professionals, information assistants, tourist guides in both adventure and leisure segments, and a good prospectus for qualified tourism professionals are in the private sector with travel agencies, tour operators, airlines, hotels, transporters and airline companies. The opening up of the skies to private airlines has removed bottlenecks in the transport resulting in easy flow of domestic and foreign tourists to the state. The career options in this industry are countless and each segment of this tourism industry offers a variety of jobs to both skilled and non skilled youth.

Adventure Tourism gives tremendous scope for Job creating:

The vast and endless scope of adventure tourism in our state is largely because of its diverse topography and climate of its each region, from foot hills of Jammu region to lush green valleys of Kashmir with snow covered mountains and white water rivers and the moon land Ladakh with some of the best mountain peaks for mountaineering sport offers an opportunity to a adventure lover to act and go for his choice of adventure activity and in present day times the natural beauty and abundance of outdoor activities attract a large number of adventure enthusiastic and fitness oriented people to actively participate in mountain, water and aero sports such as trekking, skiing, ski touring, climbing, kayaking, white water rafting, mountain biking, Para sailing and gliding etc., this is the area where we have an edge over pleasure tourism as this segment of tourism is growing very fast in the places which offer the adventure activities. The world of adventure has changed tremendously and gone are the days when this adventure tourism was limited only to a very few activities. In the recent past a lot of new adventure oriented activities have been introduced and with this changing scenario in the adventure world we have to develop some new areas which are having adventure tourism potential. Adventure tourism and adventure sports along with Eco tourism is growing by leaps & bounds in the western countries and Europe and one can say that they are in a close relation with each other. In fact, rafting, skiing, swimming, canoeing and similar activities are under the Olympic associations and are free enterprises. The International Rafting and Canoeing Federations are giving the right directions and guidelines to this water based adventure sport and combination of these two are doing wonders in the areas of its potential. To see the importance of tourism at large in the economic sector this industry contributes about 5 – 15% to GDP and adds same percentage to the employment all over the world. Tourism is world’s largest industry and is growing very fast in Asia while giving a chance to the tourist places and its people to grow with it. Adventure tourism in the world is growing by 10% annually, and is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry in the world.

Adventure tourism being the year round activity there are ample chances of creating jobs by giving incentives to tour operators to buy the adventure related equipments for the sports like skiing, trekking, rafting and aero sports. These companies can offer hundreds of jobs to the unemployed youth.

Training schools for adventure Activities, the proper infrastructure should be raised to impart training in different adventurer related courses to the youth so that they choose a job in their interested field of adventure. We can easily engage hundreds of ski guides, trekking guides, rafting guides and guides in aero and mountaineering and rock climbing.

If given the right incentives, adventure tourism can become the primary export-oriented industry of our state. The low input and the high returns nature of this industry can make it self-sufficient for a resources starved state of ours and if due care and attention is given to this industry it can work wonders for the states economy and job creations.

Tour Operators and Travel Agents play important role in job creating:

Travel agents and tour operators are the ones who can create the job opportunities to a larger scale. In travel agencies there are openings for reservation and counter staff, Sales and Marketing staff, Tour escorts and tour guides. A short tem course or a diploma in travel and ticketing of 3-6 months duration will help gain entry into an agency. Several large travel agencies also offer short-term training programmes, and tend to absorb most of the candidates. Some agencies take in fresh graduates and train them on the job. Most t ravel agencies demands persons have a pleasing personality and the ability to deal with customers. A knowledge of destinations and procedures help a great deal. We can classify tour operators into two parts one is those who conduct the pleasure tours only like sightseeing and excursions while as other specializes in conducting adventure tourism which has got more potential in our state particularly in Kashmir and Ladakh divisions. These companies organize the activities like trekking, skiing, mountaineering, river rafting, hang gliding, rock climbing and camping etc. Tour operators need people for selling the concept and then to accompany the groups to the destination. The proper incentives should be provide to the tour operators and travel agencies to raise their office infrastructure and marketing materials for promotions to bring more and more tourists to the state.

Government Tourism Department:

In the Tourism Department there are jobs as Reservation & counter staff, Sales and marketing staff, Tour Planners and Tour guides.

The department is involved in the planning and promotion of tourism activities. A degree in travel and tourism is required for operational jobs in government organizations. The Ministry of Tourism recognizes three types of guides, regional, state and local. A regional guide gets a two year renewable license from the Ministry of Tourism endorsed for life by the Archeological Survey of India. Guides give detailed information on the various monuments and artifacts and about the countries traditions and heritage.

Tourism Development Corporation.

J&K Tourism Development Corporation can play important role in creating jobs if this organization will be given face lift by providing them funds to raise more infrastructure for tourists at the newly tourism development authorities.

Some Suggestions for the promotion and job creations in the tourism sector:

1/ Establishment of tourist offices and Kashmir information centers in all major cities of India. By opening of more tourist offices in different parts of India the tourism industry will get a boost by more arrivals which automatically can prove beneficial in job creations in private sector besides giving employment to many unemployed youth who have already degrees in tourism related subjects.

2/ In the tourism marts like ATM Berlin and WTM London the presence of J&K as tourist destination in the Indian tourism pavilion is equalent to nil. While as all other states are projected evenly and in a better way. This disparity should be removed and more publicity should be given to all the three regions of Jammu & Kashmir state evenly and rationally.

3/ Tourism marketing schemes with proper incentives should be given to the tour operators who promote and market tourism in the domestic as well as in the international markets on the patterns of Government of India tourism department.

4/ On the pattern of central government tourism department scheme 70% reimbursement of the funds spent by the tour operators on printing of publicity materials and broachers plus traveling. This will encourage more and more youth to set up their establishments which can again create the job avenues to the unemployed youth.

5/ To build the infrastructure at all tourism development authorities across the state which otherwise are going at snails pace. This will make the tourism players able to sell extra nights to their clients and can also prove a great source of income to the local populace who can sell their produce at source to the tourists who will be visiting to these newly opened up tourist destinations.

6/ Provide incentives to adventure tour operators on purchasing the equipments for trekking, rafting, skiing and other adventure related activities.

7/ Conduct of fairs, festivals and cultural programmes at all tourist destinations in a big way and at larger scales should be held across the state.

8/ The heritage towns and places with monuments should be promoted and highlighted for tourist attractions.

9/ Soft loans and incentives should be given to the tour operators for raising and purchasing of good luxury coaches as there is a dearth of luxury coaches in the valley.

10/ The tourism subject should be included in the curriculum of schools and colleges to create awareness among the students and youth for self employment.

Tourism Promotion Policy:

Suggestions for long term tourism promotion policy which subsequently will benefit for job creations in the state.

The large number of tourist arrivals to Kashmir in previous years is a welcome sign but we should measure success in tourism not by sheer numbers of visitors but by their length of stay and the money they have spend. We have to give more places and more nights to a traveler as our traditional golden triangle, Srinagar – Pahalgam – Gulmarg is too small an area for a tourist who wants to spend couple of weeks or more in a place like Kashmir.

There is an industrial boom in India and corporate world is growing by many folds, we can easily attract corporate people for adventure activities. Camping, rafting, golfing, trout angling in the streams and high altitude lakes, canoeing and kayaking in the mountain streams, lakes and river Jehlum.we can add these activities to our broachers which means more nights of the stay in the places of its potential.

Government of India should release the liberal funds to J&K tourism department for development of this industry and the tourism department in return has to do some more hard work while developing old and new areas for leisure and adventure tourism & sport to be at par or even ahead of other adventure tourism destinations, the concerned department must employ, engage or get the services of qualified and professional consultants in adventure tourism wing, they have to identify different types of adventure tours and requirements needed for managing the adventure tourism destinations and look for the potential customers their needs and requirements while planning and conducting adventure tours, they have to identify various kinds of natural environments for adventure tours and check the requirements and problems associated with while using natural locations for adventure tours, identify ethical and environmental issues related to adventure tourism and kinds of strategies for reducing their negative impacts on customers and operators, list the target groups for marketing adventure tourism and identify the adventure tourism activities which have the greatest potential for financial success in our region. summarize brochures on different adventure tourism attractions and enhance the potential of adventure tourism in the mountainous areas were people live like Kishtawar, Bhaderwah and Gurez and compare the attractions and disadvantages of these destinations in adventure tourism. Check the activities which needs licensing requirements in adventure tourism, identify the ways in which the adventure tourism market might be segmented and watch the consumer trends which are changing in adventure tourism, list different types of natural adventure tourism activities which have experienced growth in recent years in other Himalayan states, Europe and western countries and list the issues which tourism management should consider while planning and developing natural adventure tourism destinations.

While developing the new places with adventure activities, bring some old tourist attractive events to the fore. The Polo Sport which was once an event of great importance in Kashmir is now totally ignored & neglected, the polo ground in the heart of Srinagar city should be restored to its old glory as this princely sport is now fast becoming a sport of the classes and masses and if restored it can attract a whole lot of polo enthusiastic people from far and wide, In India polo game is flourishing today because the former royal families have continued their support & patronage to it and the corporate sponsorship too has been supporting and contributing to this adventure sport.

To give more choice of activities and wide area to the present day adventure tourist, our government should develop and bring some more areas in to the tourist map, In Srinagar the area of Mount. Mahadev can be easily developed by setting up a ropeway and the foot track between the beautiful sites of Harwan - Dara and Mahadev top which will promote the adventure tourism to a great deal as the area has got huge potential in adventure tourism activities. The 360 degree wide angle panorama from top of Mahadev will leave a tourist spellbound by breathtaking views of the whole valley including mount. Harmukh in north, mount. Kolahai in east and Sunset peak in the west. In summer this area can give boost to the activities like hiking and camping and in winter it can prove the best skiing resort as the area is accessible in about 30 to 45 mints from any part of the Srinagar city. Similarly the Srinagar fort on the famous Kohi Mara hill should be opened up for the general tourist traffic while a track should be made around it with the view points like the one on eastern side of this hill called Kostoor Peind, powerful telescopes should be installed at these points which can give a close view to a tourist while watching the mountain scenery and the sights of the old city. The glory of river Jehlum can be revised which was once the only mode of transportation between south and north Kashmir, by introducing small local doonga type cruise boats, Shikaras and light power motor boats which can take tourists for a ride from zero bridge through old city to the finishing point at Safa Kadal while stopping in between at the places like Fateh Kadal and Zaina Kadal for sight seeing of old city which will not only add up one more activity to the tourist map of Srinagar but will also bring back the charm to our main part of the city. To bring the Daksum – Symthen Pass – Madhwah Kishtawar road and Daksum – Mati Gavran – Margan Pass – Inshan road into the tourist circuit the road connectivity should be taken up on priority basis so that the regions of Kishtawar and Baderwah which have got huge potential in adventure tourism can get developed as the area is trekker’s paradise and mountaineers delight.

Sustainable Tourism:

For a sustainable tourism, the agencies, tourism players and authorities of tourism have to play a role of a responsible care taker, their constant vigil and action can help to sustain the trade in a big way. A look at the important towns dotting the tourist map of the valley reveals that much has to be done by the government and tourism stake holders to make the stay of the tourists comfortable and memorable one, bad roads, unhygienic conditions of road side restaurants and dhabas on the national highway from Jammu to Srinagar, harassment by the touts and rents in some hotels & private guest houses, non-availability of standard food items and the level at which these are priced, put the tourists off, Non-availability of professional guides, lack of inadequate transport facilities and conducted tours by the good luxury coaches are the other factors dampening the enthusiasm of the visitors, this coupled with inadequate publicity of the natural and traditional assets of the valley, makes a large number of tourists pack up earlier than scheduled, Another important and necessary pre - requisite to develop a particular area for pleasure or adventure tourism is the accessibility and good road connectivity to that place. Our state is fortunate enough in this regard as almost all our adventure tourism starting points are easily accessible by roads though some of these roads are in a bad shape and pathetic condition, to make the tourist traffic hassle free to the tourist destinations our government should make the road connectivity as good as possible on priority basis. This is the area where the Government of India has to come forward and help the state to create a good infrastructure by providing the liberal funds for the development of tourism.

If given the right incentives, tourism can become the primary export-oriented industry of our state. The low input and the high returns nature of this industry can make it self-sufficient for a resources starved J&K state and if due care and attention is given to this industry it can work wonders for the states economy and can prove great source of Job creations for the numberless unemployed youth of the state in general and Kashmir valley in particular.

Presented by:
Rauf Tramboo (Adventure Travel Consultant)
President Travel Agents Association of Kashmir.(TAAK)

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