Baramulla: Border tourism is bringing social change in areas of north Kashmir since they were opened to the public. Areas like Keran, Gurez, Tangdhar, Machil, Titwal and Bangus are the new tourist destinations added to the list of the tourism department. With breathtaking views of hills and rivers, these places are being promoted as adventure tourism destinations.
A month ago, the local residents of these border areas started decorating their homes and turned them into homestays for tourists. They say that they have benefited greatly from tourism while a clear social change is being witnessed as people are now busy working in the tourism sector.
Some locals have started working as guides while others have opened restaurants. In areas where people used to abstain during the day from going out due to fear of cross-border shelling, night events including bonfire nights and all-night campings are being held.
“In the last two years we have seen a lot of changes, including basic development. Schools and other buildings which were damaged during shelling are now being repaired. Besides, the tourist numbers have increased, which is the most beneficial and major development for the border areas,” Mohammad Shaban (47), a local from Tangdhar told news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO). “We welcome tourists with open arms and tell them that they are in nature’s lap.”
Khalid Khan (27), a resident of Uri, said that the number of tourists in the border areas has increased tremendously and people hope that these numbers will continue to grow because it is their source of livelihood now.
Another major border tourist attraction is Gurez valley, located in the high Himalayas, about 86 kilometres from Bandipora district. Here, Sajad Ahmed has been receiving tourists for the last two months and has become a source of employment for fifteen other people as well.
He said that business is good amid a peaceful environment – “and that’s what we’ve been waiting for years.”
“Local people are working hard with the tourists, besides maintaining tourist spots. And they are reaping the benefits as well,” he said, adding that people are also grateful to the administration for showing them a roadmap for promoting tourism.