God has finally heard our pleas, says president of Travel Agents Association, Kashmir
Srinagar: It was not the lush green pastures of summer but the bright white snow of winter that did the trick. Since August 4 last year, when all tourists and pilgrims were told to leave Kashmir ahead of the abrogation of J&K’s special status, it is for the first time that tourists have thronged the picturesque destination of Gulmarg, known for its heights, gondola cable cars, horse rides and sleigh rides.
“The entire January 2020 is sold out at Gulmarg. Its high-end hotels are booked till February end,” President of Travel Agents Association of Kashmir, Farooq Ahmad Kuthoo, told Kashmir Reader.
“Pahalgam and Srinagar, too, have influx of tourists. Some 20-30 percent tourists are at Pahalgam. But the most preferred is Gulmarg,” Kuthoo said.
Director of Tourism, Nisar Shah, said that this winter is the best in many years. “It is going to be even better in the coming days,” he gushed.
Gulmarg started to receive tourists from various Indian states after the season’s first snowfall in late October. This was followed by the stay of various Indian celebrities in the picturesque resort, which built up further momentum. Now Gulmarg is house-full.
Shah said that the reason Kashmir is becoming a hot destination in winter is because international destinations are closed for travel these days. Those who would have otherwise travelled to foreign destinations are coming to Kashmir instead, he said.
“It is icing on the cake for Kashmir. We are getting high-end tourists. Kashmir is also earning acclaim,” he added.
The last time a good number of tourists were found in Kashmir was in July 2019, a month before the abrogation of special status. Kashmir received 152,525 tourists during the month but August 2019 saw only 10,130 arrivals, most of which were in the first four days of the month. This number further fell to 4,562 in September 2019. Between August and December last year, a decline of 86% was recorded in the tourist footfall. Since March this year, there had been no tourists due to Covid-19, but towards the end of October tourists again started to arrive, Kuthoo said.
“It seems god has finally heard our pleas. We are getting tourists out to celebrate their honeymoons in Kashmir, that too in winter,” Kuthoo said. “If everything remains calm, we hope the economy will get a new lease of life.”