As the J&K government focuses on revamping the tourism sector of the state, the policymakers should look towards countries like Holland and France for more out-of-the-box strategies to capitalise on the rich floral diversity of Kashmir.  

Floriculture is an integral part of J&K’s tourism sector, which in turn has emerged as the mainstay of the state’s economy. The Department of Floriculture is involved in development and maintenance of gardens and parks in Kashmir valley with the stated aim to boost tourism at various tourist destinations.

Tulip Garden

Recognizing the relation between the two, the J&K government recently assigned the charge of the post of Administrative Secretary Floriculture, Gardens and Parks to Farooq Ahmad Shah who was already holding the charge of the post of Administrative Secretary, Tourism Department.

According to the officials, Shah was assigned the additional charge “in order to synchronise various departments related to tourism sector”.  In fact, it has been a long pending demand of tourism stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir for bringing the allied sectors of tourism under one canopy for greater coordination and effectiveness.

Countries like Netherlands and Japan are known the world over for ‘flower tourism’, a concept which is yet to be explored in Kashmir. The long cold winter of Kashmir renders the landscape grey and dull. The spring blossom transforms gardens and parks into stunning locales, attracting tourists by their colourful display and distinctive aroma.

Hype aside, Kashmir still doesn’t have the kind of floral tourism infrastructure needed for boosting tourism. Developing floral tourism destinations needs conscious efforts. The J&K government can learn from France’s lavender fields or the Netherland’s Tulips. These countries have been emphasising the importance of preserving nature.

We can also learn a lesson or two from China, which has been trying to promote its flowers in recent times. The country’s flower tourism is becoming more and more pronounced, according to national news agency Xinhua, with locals and foreign visitors traveling to see the flowers.

The concerned departments in Jammu and Kashmir must aim at meeting the international standards as far as the upkeep of Mughal Gardens (Nishat, Shalimar, Cheshmashahi, Pari Mahal, Verinag, Achabal and Jarokabagh), Botanical Garden, Kokernag, Pahalgam, Manasbal, Tulip Garden, Nehru Memorial Botanical Garden, Children Park and various other parks is concerned.

In recent years, the J&K government has been actively promoting Tulip Garden. Located in the foothills of the famed Zabarwan hills and spread over 20 acres with around 10 lakh bulbs, Tulip Garden has emerged as a major spring tourist destination in Srinagar. It hosts more than 70 varieties of different colours, which bloom by March end and the blooming extends till May. After its inauguration in 2008, it came as a shot in the arm for the state Tourism Department, attracting lakhs of tourists every year.

Even as it is touted as Asia’s largest tulip garden, it has still a long way to go before it can be compared to gardens of Holland, which happens to be the largest exporter of cut flowers in the world. Tulips of Holland have an interesting history. According to author Robert Greene, in seventeenth-century Holland, the upper classes wanted to make the tulip more than just a beautiful flower – they wanted it to be a kind of status symbol. “Making the flower scarce, indeed almost impossible to obtain, they sparked what was later called tulipomania. A single flower was now worth more than its weight in gold,” writes Greene.

Buoyed by the overwhelming tourist response, the state floriculture department is planning to have two tulip blooms in a year.

Talking to a local English daily, Director Floriculture, Talat Parvez said: “We will have another tulip bloom during September – October which will further extend tourism season.” He said this year the department is experimenting on small area where few thousand tulips will blossom in autumn. “If it is successful, we will have lakhs of tulip blooms in next year autumn season.”

When the tulip garden was developed, it advanced the tourism season. Currently, tulips bloom on 120 kanals of land and the department will have more tulips on additional 40 kanals of land. “The tulips will bloom on 160 kanals of the land in this garden and we will have 15 lakh bulbs in the next season instead of 10 lakh bulbs at present,” said Parvez. The slope area of the garden, which is undeveloped, can be used for other flower varieties like orchid, cherry and other flower blooms. This will attract more tourists round the year.

There is a need for more out-of-the-box strategies to capitalize on the rich floral diversity of Kashmir to lure more tourists and extend the tourism season in the valley.

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