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HomePeopleInconversationLadakh Diversifying its Tourism Offerings: K.Mehboob Ali Khan, Secretary (Tourism), Ladakh

Ladakh Diversifying its Tourism Offerings: K.Mehboob Ali Khan, Secretary (Tourism), Ladakh

Ladakh, the land of high passes and home to more than 20 high motorable passes including the world’s highest pass Umling La, is developing a host of destinations and products, says K.Mehboob Ali Khan, Secretary (Tourism/FCS & CA/Labour & Employment), UT of Ladakh.

What are the main tourist attractions of your state?

Ladakh is the land of high passes and is home to more than 20 high motorable passes including the world’s highest pass Umling La (19024 feet). In the north of Ladakh Siachen Glacier of the Karakoram range, world’s longest glacier and the world’s highest battlefield, is open for tourists/visitors upto the ‘Civil facility’ near the Siachen base camp.

Ladakh is now home to India’s first Dark Sky Reserve (Hanle Dark Sky Reserve in the Changthang area). We plan to promote the area through Astro-tourism, by incorporating several homestays and installing telescopes in these homestays located in the villages within the reserve.

The Union territory of Ladakh boasts of its natural beauty, which attracts tourist from all over to world. Places like the high altitude Pangong lake, Tsomoriri lake etc. are the most frequented tourist spots. Similarly, the white sand dunes at Hunder-Diskit, Nubra valley along with the famous double humped Bactrian camel is another hot-spot for domestic tourists. In the Kargil district of Ladakh, Suru Valley is a beautiful destination with picturesque landscapes including lush green valleys, snow-capped high-altitude mountains & historical places. This valley is home to numerous popular trekking routes including four days trek to Shargole via Rusilla and Sapi and three days pleasure trek to Drass via Umballa. The highest open peaks of Nun (7135 mtrs.) & Kun (7077 mtrs.) located in the Zanskar range have been a heaven for adventure lovers & mountaineers from across the world.

We have been organizing and promoting various festivals in Ladakh such as Apricot Blossom Festival, Buck-wheat festival, Nomadic Festival, Zanskar Festival across both Leh and Kargil districts thereby showcasing Ladakh’s village life, culture & traditions to the world. The spectacular landscape of Ladakh is dotted with ancient Buddhist monasteries, palaces (Khars), astanas and mosques. They unveil the rich architectural splendour, mysterious legends, and deep-rooted religious association of the people in the sparsely populated landscape of Ladakh.

As part of adventure attractions Ladakh offers a plethora of activities like Rafting, Skiing, Bungee Jumping, ATVs, Kayaking, Mountain Biking, Cycling, Paragliding, Skiing, Zip-lining, Ice Climbing, Mountaineering & Trekking. Snow leopard expedition is a popular winter attraction known for sighting wildlife especially the Himalayan big cat (Snow Leopard), which is an endangered species and the pride of the Himalayas.

Ladakh is an important wildlife zone of India because of the rare high-altitude species which inhabit the region like the Pallas’s cat, Eurasian Lynx, Tibetan Gazelle, Tibetan Antelope, Wild Yak, Himalayan Wolf, Asiatic Ibex, Tibetan Argali, Blue sheep, Ladakhi Urial, Snow leopard, and the Himalayan brown bear. Drass is one of the best destinations in India for sighting the great Himalayan Brown Bear. Ladakh is one of the few high-altitude birding tourism destinations and the checklist of birds in Ladakh year-round account for 30% birds found in the Indian Subcontinent.

What new tourism attractions/products have you launched in the last 2 years?

A major geographical area of Ladakh falls along the LAC & LOC with China & Pakistan respectively. These areas close to the borders were not open for tourists/visitors and a permit to these restricted locations was required. After becoming a Union territory, Ladakh removed the permit system for domestic tourists and now movement of tourist is free throughout the Union territory except few locations. We have been focusing on border tourism and rural tourism in the recent past. The newly renovated Rezang La War memorial includes a double-storied museum, a mini-theatre to screen a special documentary on the battle, a large helipad and various other tourist amenities. Umling La Pass on Ladakh’s Chisumle-Demchok Road, is now the world’s highest motorable road. The high altitude Shinkun la motorable road between Darcha, Lahaul valley of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh’s Zanskar valley. This is the third highway connecting Ladakh with mainland India after Srinagar-Kargil-Leh and Manali-Sarchu-Leh highways.

Various adventure activities like Bungee Jumping, Ice Climbing in Gangles, Suru, Nubra and Zanskar, and Mountaineering to peaks like Nun Kun are now open for tourists. The Bungee Jumping at Tsogtsi village in Chilling is the world’s highest bungee jumping. Ladakh also hosted India’s first and the World’s Highest Frozen Lake Half Marathon (Guinness Book of World Record) at Frozen Pangong Lake. We have also organised international events such as MTB Cycle rally, High Altitude Marathon etc.

The Nomadic Festival started in 2021 is an annual festival celebrated in various villages across Changthang and aims at celebrating the glory of a completely nomadic lifestyle with their culture in its pristine form.

To promote High-End/ Luxury Tourism in Ladakh for the entire year, Heli Services for all-season travel from & to various locations of the UT has started. The Helicopter Service will cater passengers from far-flung areas of Ladakh on various routes through online booking

What sort of tourism attractions are there in the pipeline or under development?

Ladakh has 120 open peaks ranging from 5508 meters to 7135 meters and we are planning to open 141 more peaks ranging from 5504 meters to 7672 meters for mountaineering and trekking.

Tourism Department in collaboration with Ladakh Police is planning to host an annual Bike & Car (motorsport) event of international stature such as Dakar Rally, or WRC. This will bring the niche international fans of the participants and or the event itself to the region with increased time stay.

Ladakh, due to its unique landscape and environment is very well placed to utilize its existing resources to set up wellness tourism units throughout the region. Ladakh offers the ideal pristine setup for wellness centres, yoga retreats, and spas which is a major area of interest for domestic and foreign tourists.

What other tourism attractions related infrastructure are being developed in your state?

Infrastructure projects being developed in both Kargil and Leh districts of Ladakh include the construction of Convention Centre at Kargil/Leh, Tourist Reception Centre near Zojila and Shikunla in Kargil and Rumche in Leh, development of Snow-Ski slopes at Linkipal, Kargil and Padum, Zanskar, development of Suru-riverfront and Indus Riverfront, passenger ropeways in Leh and Kargil towns as public transport/funicular rails systems. A Light and Sound/Multimedia show is being implemented at the Leh Palace and Suru river front in Kargil.

Along with this to promote rural and border tourism the department is proactively promoting homestays with scope for hospitality & sustainable solutions for the ecosystem and taking initiatives to improve road connectivity and wayside amenities. We are also promoting and curating many hot spring zones like Panamik, Puga, Chumathang, Demchok, Mulbek and others with an aim to bolster traditional Ladakhi massage therapy and wellness tourism.

What is the strategy to market and promote existing new tourism attractions to draw tourists?

Ladakh offers an immense opportunity for border tourism by promoting the border as a visiting destination and tourist experience in view of its natural and cultural heritage. We are taking up Border Village Development in terms of infrastructure development by promoting homestays in border villages and improving road connectivity and wayside amenities, removing permit requirement for domestic tourists to visit border villages, and promoting and branding of prominent war memorials in collaboration with the Indian Army.

We are working towards exponentially increasing homestay capacity across Ladakh and training locals to run homestays that offers unique touch of authentic Ladakhi hospitality to promote rural tourism and capture a wider territory.  We are also working at opening new trek routes and destinations and introducing Heli-Services to increased accessibility to remote tourist locations and involved more locals in the service capacity.

How closely are you working with travel agents/tour operators to promote these products in domestic and overseas market?

We have been conducting various interactions and events in collaboration with the local tour and travel alliances. As a part of its tourism promotional campaign in the domestic market, the Tourism Department participated in South Asia’s Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE), Bharat Parv, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) and Outbound Travel Mart (OTM) and ITB Berlin for promotion of tourism in the national and international markets. Travel trade association members and hoteliers from the twin districts of Leh and Kargil also participated in these trade shows. Moreover, number of Embassies abroad are promoting Ladakh as a destination for inbound tourists.

How were tourist arrival numbers in 2022 and what is the expectation from 2023?

Ladakh received 5,31,396 tourists in 2022 including 21,258 foreign and 5,10,137 domestic tourists. In 2022, there were around 38,000 tourists in the first four months while this year we received around 34,000 tourists. Ladakh tourism will see similar footfall in the current year also.

Anything more you would like to add from your side?

The UT of Ladakh will now focus on a 12 month tourist inflow from various overseas destinations. Ladakh has four distinct seasons to offer to visitors, which in itself is as adventurous as travelling to high mountain passes. Ladakh offers a unique combination of nature, mystery, adventure, culture and tradition. All aspects of Ladakh’s potential is now being showcased to make Ladakh a favoured destination for foreigners and domestics tourist as well.






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