Shikara rides, snow-capped mountains, musical evenings, and cruises – this is Kashmir Autumn Festival for you!
There is a negative perception about Kashmir which has affected the tourism industry and the local Kashmiris for years. For instance, take the case of skiing guide, Farooq Bhatt, who has been supplying jackets, shoes and skiing gears on hire from the past two decades to the tourists in Gulmarg. He travels from the nearby Tangmarg to serve the guests from around the world. He also guides and helps the tourists to ski near the gondola (state-run cable car service) in Gulmarg. Over the years, his income during the seasonal visit of tourists has drastically reduced from Rs. 1000/ day to Rs. 400/ day.
The department of tourism of Jammu and Kashmir therefore organised a familiarisation tour to boost the morale of people like Farooq as well as others who are involved with tourism & hospitality industry of the state. The tour, lovingly called as the Kashmir Autumn Festival, was held during the mesmerizing autumn from 25th October 2018 to 27th Oct 2018. It was mainly aimed for writers, bloggers, artistes, entrepreneurs, Instagrammers and government officials from across the country. The objective of the festival was to change the negative perception about the picturesque Jammu and Kashmir valley and woo back our loving tourists.
Around 100 guests graced the three day Kashmir Autumn Festival and were acquainted with the breathtaking beauty of Srinagar, Pahalgam and Gulmarg. They were introduced to the myriad shades of valley, its people, traditional and popular music, an array of mouth-watering Kashmiri food and warm hospitality of the locals.
Day 1: Srinagar
Beginning with an inauguration ceremony at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC), overlooking Dal Lake adding to the charm, Rigzin Samphel (Secretary Tourism of J&K) addressed the guests with a warm welcome. He mentioned that “Kashmir is not unsafe for tourists” and factually told everyone that there has been a 40 percent rise in international tourists. Post his speech, all guests were taken on a heritage tour from Pari Mahal, Chashme Shahi, Nishant Bagh and then finally ending with a cruise on Dal Lake.
Day 2: Pahalgam
While mentioning the facts at Pahalgam Club, the chief executive officer of Pahalgam introduced the guests to the ground level problem. He told them that Pahalgam accounts for 70 percent of Kashmir’s tourist attraction and yet we have only received seven lakh tourists this year as compared to eleven lakhs in 2011.
He toned down the seriousness of the matter and introduced the guests to the warmth of local people who offered them tea, local bakery and scrumptious lunch of gushtaba, rogan josh, lotus stem curry, chicken and fish at the serene Pahalgam Golf Course.
Post lunch, the tour headed to witness the dreamy Aru Valley, a haven for trekkers where time comes to a standstill in this far-off corner of Kashmir. As the day progressed, guests were amazed by the affection and warm hospitality of local venders and small traders, the reality of lack of income and opportunity visible on their faces.
Day 3: Gulmarg
Gulmarg, one of the most magnificent destinations in Jammu and Kashmir, was saved for the last day for our guests. The town has been welcoming tourists since colonial times with its colder climes, long walks, treks and golf course skiing.
On the final day at the Gulmarg Golf Club, guests of the tour were served with Harissa (a type of Haleem), kebabs, Kashmiri breads and different types of sauces with fries under the blue sky. Lunch at this serene place was a traditional affair followed by hot sips of Kahwah.
A local manager, Abdul malik, of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) came face to face with the guests about the fall in tourists over the years. He mentioned that Gulmarg is known to provide peace to every mind that visits and a comfy stay at some of the best hotels of the state.
In this way, the wonderful three-day trip came to an end with delectable dinner, music and cheerfulness at a hotel in Gulmarg.
Through this article, we, The Kashmiri Life, call you to visit the magnificent Jammu and Kashmir and experience the warm hospitality of locals. Your visit means livelihood to many of our traders and vendors. Kashmir is safe as ever and people are welcoming as they always were. Visit us!