With tourists shying away from the Kashmir valley because of incidents of terrorism, Bhaderwah, a little explored destination nestled amidst lush green forests and snow-covered peaks in the Jammu region, is humming with visitors.
A record number of 2.15 lakh tourists have visited the scenic place during the three months between April and July so far this year, said Rajinder Khajuria, chief executive officer of the Bhaderwah Development Authority (BDA).
Khajuria said that an average of 18,000 to 20,000 tourists were arriving daily as a result of which the local residents have opened their doors at a nominal tariff for home stay of people coming from various parts of Jammu, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. The town has a bed capacity of about 2000 in hotels of the J&K Tourism Development Corporation and private sector.
The state government has so far failed to promote the area as a tourist destination and whatever tourism infrastructure was developing was by the locals. The temperature fluctuating between 13 degrees Celsius in the morning and evening to 18 degrees Celsius during the day gives a reprieve from the scorching summer in the plains.
The lush green meadows of 10, 500 ft high Padri Pass, about 40 km from here on the interstate road linking Chamba, have become a hotspot of tourists from the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. Several other tourist destinations have developed around here with the locals providing boarding and lodging.
The place has developed as a tourist destination through the word of mouth and pictures being posted on social media by the locals and tourists. There were allegations that the J&K Government was discriminating against the tourist spots of the Jammu region and not promoting these in their promotional campaigns which were generally aimed at the Kashmir valley.
Khajuria said that against 2.15 lakh tourists coming here between April and June this year, the figure was 1.15 lakh last year during this period. Almost all the hotels and tourist lodges are jam-packed with tourists and “we” are diverting tourists to the Doda town for night stay, said Khajuria.
With apple, plum and peach orchards within the town and around, the place is known as mini-Kashmir. The situation became tense earlier this year when the town and areas around remained under curfew for about a week following the killing of an RSS leader by terrorists in the neighbouring Kishtwar.
However, the flow of tourists has been revived with the Army and para-military forces securing the area with their domination. The area offers several other destinations and glaciers to tourists. A tourist from Chandigarh, Ashok Kumar, said that he was fascinated with the beauty of the area.
Khajuria said that strict action was being contemplated against the temporary shopkeepers and tourists who were defacing the tourist spots by disposing plastic bags and bottles on the green slopes. Restaurants and lodging facilities were being developed at the tourist spots in the circuit, he added.