(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. Mr. Tramboo recently was re-elected as the President of the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK). His personal interests are reading, photography ane environmental advocacy.)
‘Youth should come forward and adopt tourism as a career option’
Being an exceptional adventure sports player right from his childhood days, Rouf Tramboo, one of the leading tourism players of the valley, after pursuing a bachelors degree in Law from Kashmir University shunned the practice and formed Highland Journeys- one of the leading adventure sports companies of the valley.
Soon after tasting overnight success in it, Tramboo declined many government jobs and went on to form one of the foremost and successful tourism trade bodies, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) in 2007. In a tete-e-tete with Kashmir Images reporter, Mukhtar Ahmed, Tramboo talks at length about the tourism sector and the scope for unemployed youth in it.
KI: Being a law student, what inspired you to pursue career in tourism and adventure sports?
Tramboo: Right from my childhood, I was bowled over by tourism and adventure sports in the valley. Kashmir is so beautiful that its panoramic views used to motivate me always so that I could contribute for its sustenance. After completing my graduation in Commerce from Islamia College, Srinagar in 1976, I joined Kashmir University and completed my LLB in 1984 with flying colors. Despite getting three government jobs, I declined to accept them and went ahead with my childhood love (adventure sports).
Being an active cadet of National Cadet Corps (NCC) right from the school days, I got an opportunity to visit many Indian states and travelled as a professional guide with an Australian company to Himalayan region of India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet upto 2005. After mastering it, I then started Highland Journeys in 1996 in Kashmir. Being its Chief Executive Officer, our company provides training in Trekking, Skiing, Mountaineering, Mountain Skiing, Rock Climbing, Rafting, and holds summer camps for the interested youth. Besides, we train students from Karnataka and Maharashtra also. I am also adventure tour and travel consultant of many reputed foreign based companies.
KI: How did TAAK come into being?
Tramboo: After the political situation improved in the Valley, the tourism inflow witnessed a sudden spurt here. It was here that a liking for contributing towards this sector grew in me. As a result, I formed the TAAK in 2007. With Almighty’s blessings, it is one of successful tourism trade bodies in Kashmir today. Since last five years, we are doing a commendable job in safeguarding the interests of many tourism bodies and promoting tourism in Kashmir by holding roads and trade shows at Mumbai, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Ahmadabad and Pune. An amalgamation of various tour and travel operators, TAAK is the only tourism organization with representation from all the districts in Kashmir. The annual turnover of TAAK as per the total membership is Rupees 10 crores and TAAK along with Highland Journeys provides employment to over 400 people in Kashmir.
KI: According to government figures, more than a million tourists’ visited the Valley in 2011. How do you see this positive development?
Tramboo: The credit for the boom and record tourist inflow in 2011 goes to the indefatigable efforts of government as the unprecedented rush was the reflection of all the handwork it (government) chipped in with. It is here that I would like to make special mention of Director Tourism, Farooq Ahmad Shah. He has been exceptional and leading from the front. Besides, tourism traders left no stone unturned in ensuring that tourism thrives here as it is the backbone of our economy. Now, we all hope that 2012 overshadows the tourist rush of previous year. Peace is the key and if it prevails, then 2012 might prove to be another good year for us.
KI: What is your take on the infrastructure here?
Tramboo: It is pathetic. We are losing a great deal of tourists owing to the dilapidated infrastructure at unexplored tourist destinations like Bangus, Yusmarg and Dodhpathri. Moreover, the existing infrastructure at many top notch tourist destinations is crying for attention. Besides, we still lack in many fields. We do get tourists from South East Asia and India, but a huge chunk of them are economy and budget class tourists. We need High-end tourists. To ensure their arrival, infrastructure has to be given a fillip and luxurious facilities have to be provided to cater to their needs. At the moment, at least 22 development authorities have been set up by government to upgrade and built state-of-the-art infrastructure at many destinations, but to be honest, the work is going on at snail’s pace. Apart from remaining peaceful, we have no hope that 2012 will be another good year for tourism in Kashmir as a huge chunk of tourists have been citing the pathetic infrastructure as the main reason behind their reluctance to visit such places.
KI: Separatists and some politics parties have been blaming AFSPA and DAA as the main hindrance for prevalence of peace in the valley. Being associated with tourism trade, what is your take on these laws?
Tramboo: I justify the separatist leadership’s comments. Ever since AFSPA and DAA have been imposed in Kashmir, We have lost a lion’s share of western tourists as their governments imposed travel advisories on them. Today, apart from South East Asain and Indian tourists, you will rarely see any western tourist here. AFSPA and DAA have cost Kashmir tourism dearly. We welcome how Germany acted on this issue, but we would like every European country to follow suit. But the problem plaguing this issue is that unless and until, AFSPA and DAA are not revoked, tourism will not thrive here. As tourism players, we have been pooling in all our resources to seriously consider lifting of these laws, but the final call lies with Central and State governments. As of now, we can only hope that these laws will be revoked very soon for the betterment of tourism and business sector in Kashmir.
KI: Any message for the youngsters?
Tramboo: There is a huge number of unemployed youth in Jammu and Kashmir. Owing to lack of major manufacturing units and companies, they can carve a good future as tourism has immense employment potential. Youngsters should come forward and avail the various schemes; government has kept available for them. Despite being a law student, I pursued my career in tourism and today have reached the zenith of my career. There are hiccups at initial levels in every business person’s life, but dedication and determination bring you laurels at the end of the day. A huge chunk of Kashmiris are involved with tourism sector in Kashmir, therefore, youngsters should come to the fore and pursue careers in it.