Brand Kashmir

Brand Kashmir
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The tourist sector in Kashmir has plummeted over the past few years. This is as alarming as can be given the fact that many people in the region are, in one way or the other associated with this sector. An ancillary but allied victim of the precipitous fall of the sector is the handicrafts industry, on which again scores of people in Kashmir are dependent for their livelihood(s). The conventional assessment holds that it is the conditions in Kashmir which constitute a deterrent to tourists visiting the vale. This is correct, but only up to a point. But, there is also a prosaic dimension or aspect involved here. This pertains to the rather lackadaisical approach of those responsible for promoting tourism in Kashmir. In the final analysis, Kashmir is a brand but, unfortunately, the vale’s brand equity, so to speak, has neither been worked upon nor enhanced, over a period of time. So, brand Kashmir has had or is victim to diminishing returns. This is complemented by the conditions which obtain in Kashmir, a rather thematic constant which has been milked by various media houses for TRP’s and ratings. All this has created negative associations with brand Kashmir and thereby a diminishing and dwindling tourist flow, impacting drastically the livelihoods of thousands of people. Can, the question is, tourism in Kashmir be revived? Yes is the answer. But, it would require a comprehensive rethink of the nature, understanding and practice of tourism here. Among other things, it would mean creating a new brand effect or halo around Kashmir which builds upon the past associations. A comprehensive rethink would also mean and entail a rejigg of the tourist ecology and thereby experience in Kashmir. The usual tropes associated with tourism in Kashmir are the shikara rides in Dal Lake, saunter around the Mughal gardens and a few known touristy places. There is more to these in Kashmir regarding tourism. It is the unexplored places in Kashmir that also need to be tapped into and developed as part of a comprehensive tourist experience. But, these might be in the nature of corollaries which are a concomitant to what should be the actual premise, that is, rebranding Kashmir vigorously and comprehensively and aligning it with the tourist circuit of the world. In combination and cumulatively, it is these steps and aspects that need to and must be worked upon for the tourist flow to be redirected to Kashmir.

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