Srinagar, Dec 17: Despite the COVID-19 scare, holidaymakers have started to throng ski-resort Gulmarg in north Kashmir, while brisk hotel bookings are being witnessed for the forthcoming year end.
Speaking with Greater Kashmir, Secretary Tourism, Sarmad Hafeez said November this year witnessed the highest number of monthly tourist arrivals to Kashmir. He said the travel queries for the rest of December and January were also quite “promising” adding that “hotels in Gulmarg are sold-out for Christmas eve”.
“In view of the great response from across the country to Kashmir as a tourist destination we have planned a plethora of activities. The events lined up for Christmas and New Years 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” said Hafeez.
The Secretary Tourism said that the department was planning to set-up two ice parks, one at Gulmarg and another one at Sonamarg in order to provide a mode of leisure for tourists, especially adventure lovers. However, a lot of focus is that tourists follow COVID-19 guidelines for which the department is creating awareness among the holidaymakers, he said.
“There are a lot of people showing interest in skiing, so apart from Gulmarg we are also exploring the option of skiing at Sonamarg. 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 endeavor 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 road shows and other promotional activities were being held across various cities in order to create awareness about tourism in Kashmir.
Chairman J&K Hoteliers Club, Mushtaq Chaya said the response from tourists especially in Gulmarg was quite encouraging for the winter tourism this year.
“If all goes well, we expect a bumper tourist season this winter. We have already seen almost full-bookings for Christmas and New Year’s eve in Gulmarg” said Chaya.It may be mentioned that the Directorate of Tourism, Kashmir has notified rates for various services being provided by registered tourist traders to tourists and activities conducted at various tourist destinations across Kashmir.A notification to this effect under The J&K Registration of Tourist Trade Act 1978/82/2011 read with SRO 198 dated 08.06.2012 was issued by Director, Tourism, Kashmir, Dr. G N Itoo recently. The rates have been notified for the year 2021-22 and 2022-2023, says the notification which has been issued in pursuance to the approval conveyed by the Government vide endorsement No. TSM/Estt-117/2021 dated 09.12.2021.
The tourism services the rates of which have been fixed/revised include Tourist Guides, Ski Guides, Mountain/Trekking Guides, Sledges, Ski equipment, Ice Skating, Ice Skating equipment, rafting, cycling, Zorbing, Hydro Zorbing, Snow Mobile, ATV, Motorbiking, Paragliding, Motor Boats, Bathing Boats, Labour/Helper/Mazdoor/Porter for trekking at high altitude, Flat water rafting boating, Paddle Boat Riding, Bungee Trampoline, Mechanical Mad-bull, Golf Cart ride, Zip Line, Hot Air Balloon, Battery Operated Vehicles at Sonmarg, Shikara rides at Dal, Nigeen and Manasbal lakes for various durations, pony rides for various durations and various tracks including Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonmarg, Yousmarg, Doodpathri and Ahrabal, photography of various kinds and other related services.