Jammu & Kashmir is a union territory of India, located in the country’s northern part and global tourist destination. In addition to traditional recreational tourism, a vast scope exists for adventure, pilgrimage, spiritual, and health tourism. The natural beauty and exotic locations have made it an attraction for tourists across the globe. Kashmir valley is known for its beautiful valleys, lakes, snowcapped peaks, invigorating climate, cool breezes, winter sports like trekking, skiing, fishing & various historical, archeological, religious & cultural places. Kashmir is popularly known as “Heaven on Earth”. According to the estimates from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in 2011, tourism generates around 270.7 million jobs globally and accounts for over 10% of Global Domestic Product (GDP). It also plays a key role in cross-cultural exchange of the two cultures. It helps to learn about different languages, life styles and traditions. Tourism serves as a mean of conserving the cultural heritage of the local area which otherwise might be lost due to development. It provides scope for conserving local art, dance, music, craft, dress, drama and old historic monuments. Tourism is regarded as a multi- segmented industry, therefore provides different types of jobs like hotel managers, guides, receptionists, travel agents, tour operators, photographers, artists of different kind & many other which are required to strengthen the tourism. Since the year 2011-2012 there was a significant increase in volume of domestic as well as foreign tourist’s arrivals in Kashmir.
Despite the big leap in the tourism sector of India, Kashmir’s hospitality sector was near stagnation but now big players are showing confidence and making large investment plans and now the Kashmir’s hospitality industry is heading up for better days. Ahat Hotels and Resorts, is running four properties in the UT and going to build now four more properties in the Kashmir region, aspiring to get rich dividends out of the business. Asif Burza, director of Ahat hotels and Resorts, has been aggressively pushing for tie-ups with five-star hotel chains to grab high-end tourists. The demand for budget hotels is growing while there is a shortfall in accommodation leading to many potential tourists travel to alternative destinations. The total room inventory in the organized sector in Kashmir valley is 7500 and the total number of houseboats is about 1200. The Grand Mumtaz Group of Hotels is setting up a grand resort on a 30-acre land in Tangmarg near to Gulmarg. Mushtaq Chaya, the chairman of the group, expects to add 300 more rooms under the inventory after the completion of three new proposed projects in Sonmarg, Gulmarg and Srinagar, which are in various stages of execution and production.
Local hotel owners are partnering with bigger brands for management contracts. The Taj and The Lalit have originally had hotels in Kashmir and other new big players of the hotel industry are also now stepping in Kashmir. ITC launched its Fortune Resort, Heevan, in Srinagar in August 2017. Another hotel, ITC Nedous in Srinagar launched in 2020. Carlson Rezidor, which runs Radisson Blu, Radisson and Country Inn and Suites launched its Radisson hotel in Srinagar in the month of Dec 2017. With the growing lifestyle of Indians and over exploration of other hill stations, every Indian wants to experience a piece of Kashmir to explore more about it for which they need good and branded accommodation. As things improve, best endeavours should be made to make international brands available so that both domestic and international tourism prosper.
High-end infrastructure is the need of the hour. Big players are investing in the valley but there is a need to tie up with the companies that could also bring in their expertise. There were very few high-end hotels here in the valley. The presence of known, trusted and old hands in hospitality will make it easier for people to reach here.
As the hospitality business grows it will help in providing different types of jobs like hotel managers, tour operators, guides, Artists and chefs etc. which will further strengthen the Kashmir economy by increasing income and standard of living of the people. This will also lead to new infrastructure in the field of hotel management schools and colleges. Development of infrastructure includes better road and transport facilities having lots of avenues/ routes to reach, adequately facilitated airports with least breakdown and better hospitality for them to remember to come back again and again.
The hotel has a lifecycle, starting with profitability, growth, expansion, stagnation and then obsolescence. This lifecycle is affected by many internal and external factors as design, service quality, management, consumer preferences and experience, environment- socio-economic and legal. Hotels need to drive with change to be successful. In present competitive and consumer specific business world; high end, mid-range and lower end hotels are equally facing upgrading, marketing, and branding needs. Hospitality stakeholders in Kashmir need to market their hotel by repositioning, renovating, redesigning, renaming and being constant with change. Customer satisfaction is the key tool for any organization to sustain in this current competitive era. Service providers need to understand their customers and design services in ways that maximum possible satisfaction is attained by the customer. People rely on the hospitality industry to fulfill their basic needs of transport, accommodation, food, entertainment and recreational purposes. The customers are at the heart of the hospitality, and can often make or break a business. The big business houses should undergo research to have better understanding of the needs of the customer, which would help them to make their services more effective and efficient. The sector showed enormous scope of growth from the past 1 decade and therefore more focus should be given to this sector as it contributes almost 10% to the Gross Domestic Product.