Formerly the president of Hotels and Restaurants Association of Kashmir, Javaid Burza is in the trade of hospitality since decades. He owns three palatial hotels at the top three tourist destinations of Gulmarg, Pahalgham and Sonamarg in Kashmir. Speaking to The Legitimate, Burza admits the politically dicey situation in Kashmir is affecting tourism, however, he blames that some national news channels are more damaging to the industry in their prime time news shows. Here are the excerpts.
TL: Mr Burza, Thanks for joining us. Tell us about your beginnings?
JB: I was born and brought up in Nawa Kadal, Srinagar and later shifted to Shivpora. Though my basic schooling was completed at my ancestral place, however, later I went to Tyndale Biscoe for higher schooling and later graduated from the Kashmir University. I further pursued one year diploma in hotel management from Delhi Institute of Management before joining my family business.
TL: Why did you choose hospitality industry as a career option?
JB: I come from a business background. Therefore I had always wanted to carry the legacy forward and resonate the success of my ancestors.
TL: Would you credit the hospitality sector for your success?
JB: Whatever I have achieved in life, it is largely because of this industry. I am grateful to Almighty for everything I have been blessed with.
TL: How do you see tourism fairing in the politically volatile situation Kashmir?
JB: It is one of the best industries and has a huge potential in Kashmir. Unfortunately, the present situation is dicey. We are not able to achieve what the sector is capable of. I started my business in 1984 and until 1989 everything was fine here. After the armed insurgency in Kashmir, the industry was absolutely shut and got only revived in 2002 due to which it incurred huge losses on the people associated with this business. It again suffered a setback in 2014 floods causing huge damage to its existing infrastructure. But I am sure if the situation gets normal and peace returns, the footfall of tourists will be at an all-time high.
TL: What according to you needs to be done to make tourism a sustainable industry?
JB: Amid the ongoing disturbance, the state government needs to take multiple measures to promote this industry. India is a highly populated country and we need to ensure that we reach out to the people correctly. We need to advertise about the tourism across the country through new and innovative means. Advertisements at key spots like airports, metro stations, railways stations across the country would go a long way in promoting the State’s tourism. If only 2 per cent of the Indian population is tapped, the sector would have rich dividends.
TAAI recently held a convention for the first time in the last 30 years in Kashmir. This will help the sector enormously to grow. However, I don’t shy away from saying that Kashmir has an ongoing political problem but it is not life threatening for the tourists. It is a political problem and normal life moves on. Unfortunately, our some national news channels run a propaganda that projects the state as a battlefield. Due to this, the potential tourists feel reluctant to visit Kashmir and instead choose to visit an alternate location. If this situation prolongs, reviving the tourism sector will be an uphill task.
TL: What steps do you take to promote this industry at your own level?
JB: We try to offer good servicing to our customers and also try to market tourism at our own level. Even as an individual, I try to convince people from outside the state to visit Kashmir more often with their dear ones. However, we need to address the complex political situation first if we want sustainable growth of this industry. For the ongoing season, I have a lot of hope and expectations. We want to see tourism blooming in Kashmir. There also need to be regulations on airlines who raise fares substantially during the peak season and make it difficult for commoners to travel as individuals or with their family.
TL: Would you advise youngsters to join the tourism industry?
JB: Yes, certainly! The sector has an immense growth potential. One just needs to be patient. Situation in the state can turn ugly anytime and at times you may have to wait for long periods for the situation to improve, especially if you are a budding entrepreneur. If you have the core skills and a strong will, then sky is the limit!