(Mr. Rauf Tramboo, 53, 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.)
‘Peace will turn Kashmir into top tourist destination’
Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) was established in 2008 with the sole aim to promote tourism in Kashmir. TAAK has been successful in attracting many tourists to Kashmir with its various promotional campaigns in collaboration with the Tourism Department. This has led to the increased tourist rush to the Valley.
In its annual general elections, TAAK re-elected Rauf Ahmad Tramboo as its President.
In an interview with Rising Kashmir, Tramboo talks about the overall tourism scenario of the J&K State.
Give us a brief profile of TAAK?
There was no valley based association of tour operators and travel agents who could work for the promotion of tourism in the State at a bigger platform. The need was felt to have an association to attract tourists again to Valley which has been hit by long turmoil. A group of travel agents and tour operators joined hands to establish TAAK in 2008.
Our aim was to develop and promote tourism in Kashmir and safe guard the interests of travel agents and tour operators of the valley. By the grace of Almighty Allah, we have been successful in many of our programs for the promotion of tourism in the State.
What will be your priorities during your tenure?
There are lots of things which TAAK had planned to do for the betterment of tourism trade and its members.
We have been successful in most of our plans while some are yet to be achieved. My priority will be to accomplish those assignments before taking up the new areas like promotion of Kashmir as all time tourist destinations in different part of India and also taking up issues like infrastructure development with government.
TAAK is Kashmir centric only. Do you have plans to involve travel agents from all the three regions of the State?
TAAK, indeed, is a Kashmir centric association which represents most of the travel agents and tour operators from all districts of the valley but we are planning to expand its membership to other regions like Ladakh and Jammu very soon. We want tourists to travel to all the parts of the State. All the regions, Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh have their own unique features where tourists would want to travel. If we invite tourist to Kashmir, we will want him to visit Ladakh also.
What are the main hurdles which prevent us from attracting tourists to Kashmir to its full potential?
Tourism is a peace-time trade. Peace is prerequisite for the development of tourism.
Long political turmoil and conflict in Kashmir is the main hurdle in promotion of tourism in our state. However, the entire tourism fraternity is thankful to God and also to all those who helped to maintain peace in 2011. Peaceful summer has attracted record number of tourists this year. J&K will be the number one state in tourist arrivals in whole India if peace prevails.
Why has Kashmir failed to attract high-end tourists especially foreigners?
High end tourists are willing to spend any amount on their tours but, in return, they expect same amount of comfort which our state is not in a position to offer. Our tourism infrastructure is basic and caters to budget and economy class tourists only.
Unless we provide them better facilities, they will shy away from visiting Kashmir which is a direct loss to the State and tourism players. Besides, the travel advisories are the main bottlenecks and impediments in attracting them.
What is TAAK doing to woo foreigners to State?
Tourism Department and also tour operators have frequently visited European countries to attract tourists to Kashmir but so far it has proved futile. As I already said unless the adverse foreign advisories are lifted tourist arrivals from West is a distant dream.
We have a better market in our own backyard in the form of domestic tourist. We should give more attention on our domestic market.
What are your expectations for winter tourism?
So far we have witnessed good number of tourist inflow during spring, summer and autumn season.
The arrivals have been beyond our expectations. Now, we are upbeat about winter tourism also. The queries and booking which we receive are encouraging. Insha Allah, we are going to have more tourists in winter also.
Why have we failed to attract tourists to heritage sites despite the fact that our state is rich in heritage? Most of the tourists visit Kashmir for sightseeing?
Yes we have not been so successful in projecting and selling our heritage tourism when we not only have great potential for heritage tourism but for pilgrim and medical tourism also. We also have a great potential in adventure tourism in the entire state.
Our department of tourism is trying its best to identify the new areas to promote tourism to its fullest and I am sure in near future entire scenario of tourism will be changed for good in our state.
Tourism Minister has recently said that around 20 lakh tourists may visit Kashmir next year. Do you think we can attract so many tourists?
Far last many years our department of tourism and tourism players worked hard to see the tourist arrivals to touch one million and this dream came true in 2011. Now, we are sure that the year 2012 will also be a good tourist season and tourist arrivals will touch a new high. If peace and tranquility prevails here, sky will be the limit.