A surge in tourist arrivals is being witnessed in Kashmir ahead of Christmas and the New Year. Hotels in popular destinations, particularly in anticipation of snowfall, are fully booked for the upcoming weeks.
Tourists are flocking to the Valley, and renowned ski resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir’’s Baramulla district and Pahalgam in south Kashmir’’s Anantnag are witnessing a huge footfall, said officials.
Tourism Secretary Syed Abid Rasheed Shah expressed optimism, deeming the heightened interest a positive indication for Kashmir’’s winter tourism success. “Given the large number of tourists visiting Kashmir, I expect the winter to be a grand success for the sector. Hotels in Gulmarg and Pahalgam have already been booked. This is a very positive indication,” Shah said.
Gulmarg, often referred to as the Switzerland of Asia, is a popular tourist spot situated at an altitude of 8,000 feet and located 50 km north of Srinagar. Shah credited the hospitality of the people of Kashmir and stakeholders for revitalising tourism in the region. The Tourism Department has organised various activities for New Year revellers, including a musical evening, a firecracker show, and night and torchlight skiing.
Asif Burza, managing director, Ahad Hotels and Resorts, noted a significant increase in tourist influx following recent snowfall. “Hotels in Gulmarg are fully booked, while occupancy in Pahalgam and even in Srinagar has also gone up,” Burza said, expressing hope that tourist count would increase further on account of snowfall prediction.
Rauf Tramboo, president of the Travel Agents’ Association of Kashmir, reported bulk bookings for December-end and January, surpassing last year’s figures. He credited Kashmir’s growing year-round appeal as an all-weather destination for this.
Tramboo expressed hope for continued positive development in the industry, especially with Kashmir’’s inclusion in the country’s railway map. He highlighted the interest of foreign tourists in the Valley and anticipated a potential surge in tourism if travel advisories were lifted.
While Burza acknowledged the significance of domestic tourists for the economy citing their increased paying capacity, he also noted Kashmir’’s appeal to high-end domestic tourists. The film industry’s support, with numerous projects shot in the Valley, has contributed to the rising influx of tourists.
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Shah said recognition for new destinations in Kashmir, along with increased trekking activities, were contributing to the sector’’s growth and development. He said there was a need to diversify the tourism portfolio by promoting off-beat destinations such as Sonamarg, Doodhpathri, Bhaderwah, and Sanasar.