BY DEBAJYOTI CHAKRABORTY
KOLKATA, 11 JANUARY 2023
Home Stays are all set to become the game changers in the Jammu and Kashmir tourism sector as the ‘Switzerland of the East’ leapfrogs into the new era post the covid -19 pandemic.
Rural homestays have emerged as the fastest growing segment in the bread and breakfast market as the pandemic has forced the tourists to search for non conventional, safe and hygenic lodging options. Even in in a country like China at present there are about 8 lakhs home stays which can be booked online, which proves that homestays are gaining popularity worldwide.
To cater to the increasing tourist footfall and to provide a platform to tourists with the aim to deliver authtentic experience of local lifestyle, culture and nature etc, the Jammu and kashmir tourism department has initiated a drive to registar homestay units in 75 new destinations or locations.
Talking to The Travel and Tourism Times, Dr. Ahsan Ul Haq, officer in charge of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Office in Kolkata has informed that the department is comitted to making 50,000 rooms through homestay initiative and the tourism department is working very hard to acieve this ambitious target.
“ The online Booking facility will be available soon. The tourism department is working on it and currently these can be booked onspot after reaching the destination. Moreover, contact number of concerned service providers can be obtained from Jammu and Kashmir tourism offices located across the country,” Dr. Ahsan Ul Haq added.
Under the Ease of Doing Business, the state government has notified guidelines for registering homestays. The applicants can apply online and all they need is a home with one to four rooms.
The idea is not only to boost the offbeat tourism destinations, but also to provide an alternative livelihood to rural people and make them stakeholders with minimum investment and become a partner in the growth of the tourism sector and local economy.
In the month of August last year, the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department started a cluster of homestay services at several places in a bid to expand tourism mainly in the remote and bordering areas. These places include Manasbal, Gurez in Bandipora, Tangdar in Kupwara etc.
Homestays offer several advantages, such as exposure to everyday life in another location, the opportunity to experience local culture, traditions, cuisines, opportunities for cultural diplomacy, friendship, intercultural competence, and foreign language practice, local advice, and a much lower carbon footprint compared to other conventional types of lodging like hotels, resorts and guest houses.
Around 23 lakhs tourists have visited the Kashmir Valley including 3.5 lakhs pilgrims of Amarnath during the first nine months of last year, which is an all time record since independence. As the tourism graph is set to rise, the J& K tourism deaprtment feels the need to increase the number of accomodations in offbeat and bordering destinations.
One such popular Home Stay is the ASLAM HOMESTAY in NARANAG –
Far away from the hustle and bustle of the daily life, one feels close to nature in the heritage destination of Naranag. It was founded by the Gujrati Nomads.
Located about 50 kilometres from Srinagar on the way to Sonamarg, the toursists can experience the Tribal Culture here. Naranag is a tourist village and an emerging offbeat tourism destination. Naranag has no hotels or restaurants, one tea shop and two stores selling basic stuffs, hence homestay is the only option for overnight stays.
Around 40 homestays are avaialble in the periphery of Naranag and tourists can book these home stays after their arrival in the village. They home stays are nice houses with comfortable beds and warm blankets and also provides mouth watering home made local cuisines especially the ‘moon tea’ or ‘pink chai’ prepared by the local women.
Moreover, this is the base camp for trekkers to the Mount Haramukh and Gangabal Lake & Satsar (the seven Lakes). The Naranag Temples is one of the most important archeological sites in India.
This village is inhabited by Pahari, Gujjar and Bakrawal tribes.