In J&K, homestay facilities attract tourists to once no-go zone areas

Srinagar, (| As J&K is witnessing a tourism boom, the homestay facilities are attracting tourists to far-off areas once considered a no-go zone due to security concerns. The homestay facility was introduced by the government last year, and it has boosted border and rural tourism amid a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere on the borders of Jammu and Kashmir. Tourists are visiting the border areas close to the Line of Control (LoC) for the first time to enjoy the fascinating sights with an entirely different experience at a homestay facility.

According to official data, 1.27 crore tourists visited Jammu and Kashmir till the end of July this year, which included a 59 percent increase in foreign tourists after more than three decades. In order to ensure the maximum arrival of tourists, the tourism department has added new tourist spots to its map, with the basic infrastructure also being strengthened.

Last year, the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department introduced a homestay programme for the promotion of border tourism, which is proving to be very fruitful and ensures employment for the unemployed youth as well. Tourists availing of the homestay facility at places all across feel very comfortable and get to know the wonderful culture of Kashmir even at the most basic level of life.

A senior official of the Tourism Department said that “homestay is an initiative that solves the problem of accommodation and food for tourists to a great extent”. He said that homestay does not have negative effects on the environment and provides effective employment opportunities for the youth.

“By staying in the local houses, tourists from different parts of the country get to know the wonderful culture, lifestyle, and living being of Kashmir”, the official said, adding that “with this initiative, the means of getting employment in the tourism sector has become wider and has reached the common people”. He said the homestay has also resolved the lodging and food issues for the tourists.

He said the government has introduced new tourist destinations in Jammu and Kashmir where hotels and restaurants are not yet well established, but homestay is playing a pivotal role in providing a homely atmosphere and other necessary facilities at such places. “The construction of hotels in these places may affect the environment, but with the establishment of homestays, there is no apprehension of environmental degradation”, he said, adding that “those who have at least four rooms could be registered for the homestay with the tourism department”

The Jammu and Kashmir government has helped 500 youths set up a homestay with an incentive of Rs 50,000 under Mission Day in the year 2022, the official said. The main aim of Mission Day was to ensure the development and stability of rural tourism, and it was also an objective to provide more employment opportunities for the youth.Under the homestay initiative, about 9500 beds consisting of 5000 rooms have been established in Jammu and Kashmir during the past two years, the official said, adding that homestays have been established in all the areas of the Kashmir valley where tourists feel comfortable and relaxed.

He said that more priority is given to the establishment of home towns in new tourist destinations and remote areas so that tourists do not face any problems. Idrees Khan, the owner of a homestay in the border town of Karen in Kupwara district of north Kashmir, said that there has been an increase in the rush of tourists this year.

“I have made available a 13-room homestay facility for tourists with all the amenities”, Khan said, adding that “tourists feel happy and satisfied by staying at my place”. Apart from staying in luxurious houseboats and hotels, homestay has provided a boost to the tourism industry, and tourists are enjoying staying in a homely atmosphere in the Kashmir valley. (UNI)