Reaping peace dividends: Homestay facilities boost rural economy in Kashmir’s border villages

IOK - Indian Occupied Kashmir Jammu & Kashmir

With tourism activities picking up pace in remote villages along Line of Control, homestay facilities have increased to host visitors in absence of hotels.

“150 homestay facilities are offering their services to tourists in border areas like Teethwal and Keran,” an official said.

In February 2021, renewed ceasefire agreement between the armies of India and Pakistan has transformed remote and out of bound villages and mountains into tourism destinations.

A senior officer in Kupwara said that 70 homestay facilities have been registered with the authorities and they offer food and accommodation to tourists.

“All their details and tourist arrival figures are available with the authorities. They also maintain the arrival details of tourists,” the official said.

The official said that homestays are pivotal in the promotion of tourism activities in the district. “There is no infrastructure other than what locals have already constructed. Major hotels and restaurants aren’t there in any part of the remote areas,” the official stated.

The official also said that tourism-related activities have begun just a couple of years ago only.

“No big night accommodation is available there. Tourism has just begun and almost all of these places were out of bonds for the general public other than locals. Homestays are proving to be a game changer in attracting more tourists,” the official said while assuring more facilities will be enhanced with time.

Another senior official said that although 70 homestays are registered with the concerned authorities, their number has increased. “As per our reports, about 150 homestay facilities as of now are offering their services to tourists across the Kupwara district.”

The officials said these facilities are in Keran, Karnah (Teethwal), Machil and the rest of the tourist destinations in the district.

The official said that people are now able to eke out their livelihood from the tourism activities.

Locals are happy that tourism activities are picking up saying it has helped them earn their livelihood.

Azhar Peer, a local associated with tourism activities said two years ago it was not possible to even think of suggesting a tourist to visit border areas. “But now, last year people in the border areas have opened their homes for homestays which make the job much easier. We are now inviting tourists to visit the border areas of Kupwara,” he said.

He said that he always follows the prescribed guidelines and proper permission of visitors so they don’t have to face any problem at any level.

Azhar also said that in September this year, about 25 couples from outside Jammu and Kashmir will be visiting these border villages.

“We have already started our preparations. We have made room bookings and arrangements for food for them. About 30 homestay rooms will come under use,” he said.

He said the homestay initiative is helping a huge number of families and individuals to earn a good amount for their livelihood. “Border villages are gradually turning into tourist destinations,” he added.

Amid this, locals pray the peace along borders stays