Five years ago, when Isam Wani and his brothers Yasub and Minam introduced the European concept of glamour camping around the nestled mountains of Sonamarg, it was something unwelcome as people did not understand its importance.
But as 2016 marks its sixth year, the three brothers have been successful in giving a push to the struggling ecotourism in the Valley.
“We used to travel in winter months to different European and Arab countries and brought this idea from there. Initially, it was challenging as people did not understand its importance. It is going very well now,” says Isam Wani (28), the owner of Ahsan Mount Resorts in Sonamarg, which is a small tented colony overlooking the beautiful river Sindh.
The multi-layer insulated tents carry a perfect setting for an adventure traveller. One can get the view of snow-capped mountains and pine trees standing in a queue while just lying in the bed. The continuous breeze and humming of bees make the use of an air-conditioner irrelevant in summer.
The resort and its modified insulated safari tents is the first-of-its-kind eco-resort in Kashmir located at Sonamarg. As the concept of luxurious tents got widely accepted by tourists visiting the Valley, many young people are finding the opportunity useful for investment.
“The resort carefully combines luxury accommodation with environmentally conscious practices without sacrificing comfort or convenience. The idea was to give a boost to tourism in the Valley. We were the first to start, but many people have joined in now to take forward the same thing,” says Isam, who is an MBA from the University of Kashmir.
Nestled in the midst of pine trees and green crystal waters of the Sindh, the place is perfect to relax in a landscape with panoramic views of mountains and glaciers.
“The camp is an ideal getaway for outdoor enthusiasts, families, couples and those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reconnect with nature. All our luxury tents are equipped with modern amenities, providing the perfect setting from which to watch the glorious scenic beauty of Sonamarg,” says Isam, who is planning to extend his business to the famous destinations of Gulmarg and Pahalgam.
The concept has been praised by visitors, from top industrialists of the country to bigwigs of Bollywood. People have loved to prefer to stay in the luxurious tent than a seven-star hotel.
“We have made it to top travel magazines in the world. The visitors, particularly foreigners, love the natural atmosphere. We take care of the environment. During the shooting of ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, the team stayed here. We continuously host celebrities,” Isam maintains.
Isam, a resident of Raj Bagh in Srinagar, belongs to the generation of youth in Kashmir most of whom have been left unemployed due to lack of opportunities in the private sector given the setback from two decades of political turmoil.
Successive governments have failed to give any ease to these unemployed young men. Official records show that over 200 thousand unemployed youth have registered themselves across Jammu & Kashmir (Northern India), which is an alarming figure.
While Isam is already in his sixth successful year of business, Sameem Wani (27) from the militant hotbed of Sopore, 50 km away from the summer capital, has entered the same line given the diversifying scope of tourism in the picturesque Valley.
As the travel agency business went really well, Sameem thought of starting the glamorous camps and Green Glamping Resorts in Sonamarg was started.
“This is a beautiful concept where people enjoy staying. Given the beauty of Sonamarg, people love staying in the luxurious tents with every offering from nature just there,” says Sameem.
The main aim of both Sameem and Isam is to give a push to tourism and the economy in Kashmir. The duo have employed more than 50 local youths with them. “We are providing employment to local youth. The more we grow, the more will we be able to engage,” says Sameem.
As the government in the state continues to have a traditional approach to the vast potential of tourism industry in the Valley, these young men have given a hope of a booming local economy with adventure tourism despite the uncertainties that this place carries.
“We make everything flexible for tourists from rafting to fishing to trekking. We make all options available for them and this is helping in giving a boost to adventure tourism,” says Isam.
How to Reach Sonmarg
Sonamarg can be quite easily reached by taking a flight from the New Delhi International Airport to the Srinagar International Airport. Besides Delhi, the airport also has a good connectivity with the other major cities of India such as the Mumbai, Amritsar, Leh, Jammu and Bengaluru.
The Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation buses connect Pahalgam with the prominent cities like Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Mumbai and Nagpur. Special deluxe buses can also be taken from Jammu and Srinagar.