Snowfall rekindles hope of spurt in tourist arrivals to Gulmarg

Adventure Tour operators gear up to welcome visitors
Snowfall rekindles hope of spurt in tourist arrivals to Gulmarg
A man walks even as he carries a sledge at famous ski resort Gulmarg in north Kashmir's Baramulla district, on 23 Oct 2021.Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: Amid early snowfall, adventure tour operators in Kashmir’s ski resort Gulmarg are gearing up to welcome tourists from different parts of the world.

Adventure tour companies, several entrepreneurs who run various ski schools and winter adventure businesses in Gulmarg say that back-to-back Covid lockdowns have hit their businesses badly now they are expecting a good business season ahead in winter.

“We have been preparing for the past one month to welcome ski and winter sports enthusiasts to Kashmir,” said Shahid Rasool, a 29-year-old owner of Gulmarg Ski school.

Rasool said that more than the expected number of bookings has already come for this winter which they deem as a good sign for the business.

“The first batch of Ski enthusiasts will arrive in mid-December when there will be enough snow on the slopes. We have been busy for the past 20 days buying new equipment, hiring staff, and preparing lodging facilities for incoming guests. Most of the bookings are from different states of India but we are also expecting international tourists as Covid restrictions have eased,” Rasool said.

Adventure tour operators say that from hotel bookings to food and adventure sports, they give a full package to their guests. “This is a good business opportunity for us and many people get a livelihood. In a single ski school, there is a team of over two dozen people who are directly and indirectly associated with this. This includes helpers, instructors, drivers, and others. If the season goes well, everyone will have good business,” Rasool added.

In recent times, these entrepreneurs are going beyond skiing. Now, these ski schools are organizing snowboarding, winter camping, and other adventures to expand their customer base.

“Earlier as I was working, mostly as a ski instructor but now we have expanded and we arrange snowboarding and winter camping. There is a huge customer base who are very much into the snow games and snow adventure sports. This is giving us a good opportunity to expand our business and give a better facility to our clients,” said Adil Ahmed, a ski instructor.

The adventure tour operators have urged the government to provide all the necessary facilities so that their businesses will flourish. They said facilities like lifts for ski enthusiasts, proper maintenance of snow slopes, and other facilities for tourists will help in boosting the footfall of tourists.

“From the past few years the footfall of adventure tourism has increased and they hope it will benefit them to a great extent. Recently with the ban on international travel, Indian tourists visiting Europe have preferred Kashmir as a winter destination. These entrepreneurs say that with proper facilities and infrastructure, they can attract a good tourist footfall this winter which will be beneficial for the whole Kashmir tourism industry.”

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