Bank to make tourism bloom in Kashmir’s orchards

July 21st, 2008 - 11:18 am ICT by IANS  

By F. Ahmed
Srinagar, July 21 (IANS) Writers, honeymooners and others looking for some peace and quiet may soon find perfect little getaways in the orchards of Jammu and Kashmir, with a bank deciding to finance resorts in hundreds of such fruit gardens. “Kashmir has some of the most beautiful apple, almond and cherry orchards whose numbers run into hundreds,” said A.U. Tak, chairman of Ellaquai Dehati Bank, which has a network of over 105 branches spread across the state in the rural areas.

“The idea is very simple. The fruit orchards are located at some of the most scenic places here. They are situated on highlands, on the foothills of mountains, by the banks of lakes and rivers across the Valley.

“Our bank has decided to provide finance to the local orchard owners so that they can build small lodgings inside their orchards,” Tak told IANS.

“These would be exclusive resort-type lodgings with drive-ways leading into the interior of the orchards where tastefully done up accommodations with garages, bedrooms, bathrooms and lounges would be made available to those tourists who do not prefer the rough and tumble of over-crowded conventional tourist lodgings.

Kashmir, described by poets as the “paradise on earth”, was once a top tourism destination, popular among honeymooners, skiers and trekkers and attracting about a million tourists a year until 1989, when simmering violence broke out.

But things have started to look up in the recent months, with the violence abating and the tourists thronging the Valley again.

“The horticulture industry is one of the biggest sectors in the state and if the concept of tourism picks up, the local orchards could provide the vital breakthrough in the rural economy of the state,” said Tak.

“Spread across the valley, these exclusive orchard resorts would be ideal retreats for writers, intellectuals, honeymooners and also for those who simply prefer to have an exclusive holiday without any outside interference.

“The idea would introduce tourists, both domestic and foreign, to the local horticulture industry besides an opportunity to live inside the orchards,” he said.

The bank would also provide technical expertise, architectural support and the finances to build such lodges and an elaborate scheme has been worked out depending upon the land holdings and the inclination of orchard owners.

“As one orchard owner would have just one such facility at his disposal, tourists staying with them would be like paying guests. I am sure the idea will work out wonderfully,” Tak added.

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