Srinagar, Dec 31: At a time when travel to Europe is facing hurdles due to COVID-19, domestic holidaymakers visited ski-resort Gulmarg in north Kashmir in large numbers, while hotels witnessed jam-packed bookings for the year-end. From celebrities to adventure sports lovers, all roads have been leading to Gulmarg this New Year.
As per officials, November this year witnessed the second-highest number of monthly tourist arrivals to Kashmir at 1.28 lakhs footfalls. More than 6 lakh tourists footfalls were recorded in Kashmir this year so far, said tourism officials.
While travel queries till February continue pouring in, Gulmarg is witnessing a “considerably healthy” winter tourism season, said officials and tourism stakeholders
President, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Farooq Kuthoo said it is mostly the high-end or luxury segment tourists who are visiting the Valley. He said there is an urgent need for the government and tourism stakeholders to encourage more “budget tourists” as well. However, Kuthoo said
“An aggressive promotional campaign was held to attract more tourists to Kashmir. It is a good sign that on New Year, all high-end hotels and most budget hotels are sold out” said Kuthoo.
As per Imityaz Ahmad Beigh, General Manager, RK Sarovar Portico Hotels, both adventure and leisure tourists are visiting Kashmir in large numbers. Beigh says a boost to leisure and adventure tourism is a good sign.
“Compared to last year, there is a huge difference and an uptick in tourism numbers. All the resort locations across the country including Kashmir are witnessing a great response” says Beigh. He said the destination wedding segment in the tourism industry is an area that needs to be explored more. “We are now having more hospitality brands coming into Kashmir which is a good sign. This will also attract more high end and luxury segment tourists” says Beigh.
Secretary Tourism, Sarmad Hafeez says because of the response from across the country to Kashmir as a tourist destination, the Tourism Department has planned a plethora of activities. “The events lined up for New Year eve, such as the snow carnival, would provide a great source of leisure to tourists and locals visiting the health resorts Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg etc,” says Hafeez. He said that a lot of focus is that tourists follow COVID-19 guidelines for which the department is creating awareness among the holidaymakers.
Hafeez said a grand cultural festival was organised at Pahalgam to attract more tourists on New Year's eve.
“Roads in Pahalgam have been lit up and there are New Year festivities with cultural programmes and events showcasing local cuisine, art. We have Bollywood celebrities performing in both Gulmarg and Pahalgam” said Hafeez.
“We are also exploring Pahalgam as a winter destination. The carnivals and events lined up at Pahalgam will also help to popularise this resort as a winter destination” said Hafeez.
He said a meeting was held with various hotel associations, especially the ones in Gulmarg and Pahalgam.
“In an endeavour to improve the experience of tourists and local holidaymakers with the service providers, we are working in close synergy with hotel associations in Gulmarg and Pahalgam to ensure that winter preparedness is well chalked out. A plan for providing facilities such as water, power supply along with snow clearance mechanism from the roads has been formulated” said Hafeez.
The Secretary Tourism said roadshows and other promotional activities were being held across various cities to create awareness about tourism in Kashmir.
said the response from tourists especially in Gulmarg was quite encouraging for the winter tourism this year.