With Almost All Bloggers, Influencers In Kashmir, What Has Led To Its Surge In Tourism?

The internet has only just begun to recognise its attraction...

by Tejashee Kashyap
With Almost All Bloggers, Influencers In Kashmir, What Has Led To Its Surge In Tourism?

With one scroll across your Instagram feed, you’ll find the entire social media hub in Kashmir. In the age of digital media, the destination has emerged as a focal point for content creators. The “Instagrammability” of Kashmir’s landscapes is driving a surge in tourism. Once shadowed by the cusps of unrest and instability, Kashmir is now waking up to a new digital allure and appeal. Its renowned destinations like Gulmarg and Pahalgam have long captivated tourists but under-the-radar locales are also experiencing a tourism boom. Despite the place’s remarkable transformation into a premier tourist destination, the internet has only just begun to recognise its attraction.

Who Are Travelling To Kashmir?

In 2022 alone, Jammu and Kashmir collectively received 1.88 crore tourists, a high enough number for any region. “We have observed a notable shift in the demographics of travellers visiting Kashmir. While luxury travel has always been popular among older demographics, we are now seeing a significant increase in younger generations, including solo travellers, couples, and adventure enthusiasts,” shares Chhavi Chadha, Founder of Bespoke Tailormade Experiences, which curates travel experiences.

The unprecedented growth is driven by an increasing influx of both domestic and international visitors. “While Kashmir has traditionally been a popular destination for travellers from North India, we’re now seeing a significant increase in visitors from South India and West Bengal. Many of our clients from South India are particularly attracted by the cool climate and scenic landscapes, which provide a stark contrast to the warmer weather back home,” Sandeep Arora, Director of Brightsun Travel, India shares another insight.

While the region has always been popular amongst pilgrim tourists going for Amarnath Yatra, and Vaishno Devi temple, the untapped adventure and ecotourism potential of lesser-known regions has attracted new travellers. Areas like Gurez and Bangus are ideal for trekking, camping, and wildlife spotting. Treks like the Great Lakes provide breathtaking views and challenging trails for hikers. Adventure tourism has become a significant aspect of Kashmir’s appeal, drawing enthusiasts from across the globe. From adventure seekers and cultural explorers to families and luxury tourists, there’s a diverse range of travellers heading to Kashmir.

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What People Want To See?

The region’s ability to captivate and inspire through its diverse offerings makes it a compelling destination for travellers. Kashmir’s natural beauty is perhaps its most compelling draw. But the cultural and historical tapestry also adds depth. “The most requested experiences by our clients in Kashmir are personalised adventure tours, luxurious houseboat stays, and cultural immersion experiences,” shares Chhavi. “Our Kashmir package is one of our bestselling packages, especially in summer,” adds Sandeep.

Most of these travel curating brands and organisations host exclusive culinary tours that highlight the rich Kashmiri cuisine. The tours entail visiting local markets and experiencing traditional cooking classes with renowned local wazwaans. “A trip to Kashmir would be incomplete without indulging in the region’s traditional cuisine. It includes dishes like Rogan Josh, Gushtaba, and Tabak Maaz, all in a traditional setting to offer an authentic experience,” he shares. Other popular experiences involve taking scenic day trips to Aru Valley, Betaab Valley and Chandanwari from Pahalgam. “The two most requested experiences in Kashmir are a houseboat stay and a Gondola (cable car) ride in Gulmarg.”

For the longest time, Kashmir has served as an ideal choice for honeymooners. Floating on the serene waters, surrounded by majestic mountains and lush gardens, provides a romantic and intimate atmosphere. “For couples seeking a romantic getaway, we organise private houseboat stays on Dal Lake, complete with candlelit dinners and personalised butler services,” Chhavi informs.

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Scaling New Heights Of Tourism

Kashmir continues to evolve and expand its tourism offerings. Several factors contribute to the increase in tourist numbers in Kashmir. Improved connectivity, with regular flights to Srinagar and better road networks, has made travelling to and within more convenient. “Kashmir is now more accessible to even in the east.  Several airlines, such as IndiGo and Vistara, offer direct flights to Srinagar from Kolkata,” informs Sandeep. “Improvements in infrastructure and connectivity, including better roads, enhanced accommodation options and internet connectivity have made travel more convenient.” Several valley road trips like Srinagar to Pahalgam, Sonamarg and more through Lidder Valley, and Betaab Valley have significantly contributed to its popularity among travellers.

Additionally, the rise of boutique and luxury properties in Kashmir reflects a broader trend in the tourism industry. “These properties provide more appealing options than the overcrowded hill states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The younger generation’s preference for solo, couple, and adventure travel has also played a significant role. They seek unique and Instagram-worthy experiences that Kashmir now offers,” reasons Chhavi.

Political stability and safety are crucial for any tourist destination. The region has seen significant improvements in these areas, which have reassured tourists and bloggers alike. The region’s improved security situation has led to a renewed sense of safety among travellers. “Improved security and political stability in the region have significantly boosted travellers’ confidence and they feel comfortable exploring its beautiful landscape and rich cultural heritage,” says Sandeep.

Onwards Sustainable Tourism?

Kashmir’s renowned destinations like Gulmarg and Pahalgam have long captivated tourists, but the internet has expanded the spotlight to lesser-known areas. “Travellers are increasingly interested in exploring the less crowded areas of Kashmir, away from the typical tourist spots. They also appreciate unique encounters with local artisans and visits to historical sites that are not commonly visited by regular tourists. The coming up of boutique properties in less crowded settings has attracted this demographic,” Chhavi brings to note. “There’s a rise in eco-conscious travel experiences which could include eco-lodges, sustainable trekking practices, and initiatives to reduce the tourism-related carbon footprint,” adds Sandeep.

You see a different kind of Kashmir in these lesser-known regions. “Emerging destinations within the region that we believe will become popular among tourists include the Gurez Valley, known for its stunning landscapes. This region has been relatively untouched by mass tourism and offers incredible opportunities for trekking and outdoor adventures. Additionally, the serene Doodhpathri Valley and the Lolab Valley hold immense potential to captivate tourists seeking unspoiled natural beauty and authentic cultural encounters,” she shares. “These less-explored spots provide an alternative to the more commercialised areas as more travellers seek unique and meaningful experiences,” adds Sandeep. Additionally, both of them agree Kashmir also foresees a continued growth in adventure tourism.

These locales provide an authentic glimpse into the traditional Kashmiri lifestyle, far removed from the tourist-heavy zones. For instance, Gurez Valley is home to the unique Dard-Shina community, whose culture, language, and traditions offer a different perspective on Kashmiri heritage. However, preserving lesser-known places and emerging destinations in Kashmir as tranquil, safe havens is crucial. To achieve this delicate balance, it’s crucial to implement thoughtful strategies that prioritise sustainable tourism practices and community involvement. It’s a continuous work between tourism development and conservation efforts to attain that balance that keeps places safe from the menace of tourists.

The digital age has truly opened up new horizons for tourism in Kashmir. But in the grasp of increasing footfalls, hope the state continues living up to its moniker as “Paradise on Earth”…

Cover image credits: Canva