Tourists have started showing a keen interest in craft safaris in the old city areas. Tour operators have started receiving specific inquiries for craft safaris from the tourists.
“This is a completely new dimension of Kashmir tourism. We have already received groups from Surat, Jaipur, and Mumbai and more groups are coming shortly. The Handicrafts Department had earlier conducted a dry run of sorts for locals but thanks to the media coverage and social media buzz, craft safaris have started attracting tourists,” Javid Amin, travel consultant and proprietor of ‘JKL Travels’ told.
He said the tourists were happy to interact directly with the artisans. “The tourists were happy to interact with the artisans and buy shawls and other handicrafts items directly from them without any middlemen. This augurs well for the artisans and also the tourism stakeholders at large,” he said.
Pertinently, the ‘Crafts Safari’ was started in the wake of Srinagar making it to the coveted list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Crafts and Folk Arts Category for the year 2021.
The safari takes visitors to different artisan clusters of the old Srinagar city.
Iliyas Rizvi, founder of the Educational Revival through Arts and Aesthetics (EdRAAK), who has been conducting heritage walks and craft tours for the past five years, said the ‘recognition’ from the government had encouraged them.
“I have been conducting heritage walks and craft tours in old city areas for the past 5-6 years. It is a niche market and only a select group of people used be interested in going for heritage or craft walks. By starting the craft safari, the government has given it recognition and this also gave us a lot of encouragement,” Rizvi told .
“Kashmir has historically been an important craft center due to its geography and climate. The UN’s recent tag of Srinagar as a Creative City will open opportunities for Kashmiri to have craft exchanges with the world craft centers and get back that lost sheen, which has unfortunately discouraged craftsmen and artisans. Recognizing and financially respecting craftsmen and artisans on the ground will not only revive our crafts but will also encourage the new generation to take it up as a profession,” he added.