Young voices on Kashmir

Growing Tourism in Azad Kashmir

Ishba Aziz Khan
Azad Jammu and Kashmir, also known as the heaven on earth, is a land enriched with fertile plains, towering mountains and gushing rivers. The valley is full of beautiful sceneries and has many places for the attraction of tourists like Ganga Choti, Neelum River, Banjosa Lake, Peer Chanasi, Mangla Dam, Tolipeer and many others.  People from different areas of Pakistan come to visit these places every year.

The tourism sector in Kashmir has improved manifold with the passage of time. Initially, there were only a few hotels, more precisely guest houses in Azad Kashmir for the tourists. Lack of basic facilities at the rest houses led to the dissatisfaction of the tourists. There were almost no restaurants and fast food points here.

As time passed, Azad Kashmir developed in every field of life and a lot of advancement was made in all areas particularly in the education sector. Three medical colleges were established in Azad Kashmir in the recent years, located in Rawalakot, Muzaffarabad and Mirpur. Experienced medical professors came and settled here to provide their services to the colleges. Moreover, the agriculture college established in Rawalakot progressed and has achieved the status of a full-fledged university known as the University of Poonch.  Multiple disciplines in Arts and Sciences were introduced in this university. Not only highly qualified staff was hired but students from all over AJK and some areas of Pakistan also came here to study subjects like Pharmacy, medical and health sciences, etc. It is stated that nearly 7000 students everyday visit Rawalakot city which made it centre of business and commerce.

Consequently, local economy got a big boost and we also witnessed a rapid social change in the city. The demand of fast food restaurants, healthcare and recreational facilities also increased and people got aware of the need of these restaurants and hotels.  Now, in Azad Kashmir there are small to big restaurants, fast food points and rest houses with better facilities and improved management which has created a lot of ease for the tourists and local people.

Infra-structure is the backbone of tourism for any region. Only having beautiful places is not sufficient. For this reason, we should also have a good infra-structure and road network so that it becomes comfortable for people to travel without the fear of having an arduous journey on a bumpy and difficult road to reach these places. This is the biggest reason why people did not come to visit Kashmir in the past. The distance of Naran from Islamabad is 282.2 km and of Tolipeer is merely 142.2 km but people preferred to visit Naran just because of the developed infra-structure, and an easy and comfortable journey to get there. With the increasing time, developments have been made in the infra-structure which has greatly increased the tourism in AJK. However, we still need to invest mind and resources to further improve the roads, access points and hotels in the region.

In the past, people were not aware of the tourist places in Kashmir; in fact they did not know much about Kashmir.  The beautiful and serene sites in AJK need proper promotion and advertisement in the local and international media. Lack of proper marketing and publicizing is also a hindrance in the development of the industry.

Additionally, the tourism resources of AJK need to be determined properly and then channelized through developing skillful and professional workforce trained in areas like hospitality and hotel management, food and nutrition as well as travel and tour guides. A 30- days training was organized back in August- September 2016 by CPDR in collaboration with PAITHAM for the young people of district Poonch which was highly appreciated and people hugely benefited from it. Such opportunities need to be given to the local people on extensive scale and regular basis to use the human talent in best ways possible.

Ishba Khan

The writer is Student of International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI).
She can be reached at

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