Sunday, May 26, 2024

2023 Kashmir: Tourists Flock to Gulmarg and Pahalgam for a White Christmas and New Year

Tourists are eagerly making their way to the picturesque valleys of Gulmarg and Pahalgam in anticipation of a magical white Christmas and a joyous New Year. The demand for accommodations has soared, with hotels in these popular Kashmir destinations completely booked as visitors seek to revel in the charm of snow-covered landscapes.

Positive Outlook for Kashmir Tourism

The surge in tourist interest has been lauded by Tourism Secretary Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, who sees it as a positive sign for Kashmir’s winter tourism. He expressed confidence that the season would be a grand success, attributing the heightened enthusiasm to the warm hospitality extended by the people of Kashmir and various stakeholders.

Gulmarg: The Enchanting ‘Switzerland of Asia’

Gulmarg, often referred to as the ‘Switzerland of Asia,’ stands at an altitude of 8,000 feet and is a major draw for tourists. According to Shah, the destination is already sold out for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, showcasing the overwhelming interest from both domestic and international tourists.

Snowfall Boosts Tourism

Recent snowfall has further intensified the appeal of Kashmir, attracting a surge in tourist arrivals, as noted by Asif Burza, the managing director of Ahad Hotels and Resorts. Hotels in Gulmarg are fully booked, and the anticipation for snowfall in the coming days is expected to enhance the overall tourist experience.

Tourism Season Extended: A Year-round Attraction

Rauf Tramboo, the president of the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir, highlighted the extended tourism season in Kashmir, spanning eight to nine months. He attributed this shift to the changing narrative around Kashmir and expressed optimism for continued growth, especially with the region now connected to the country’s railway network.

Domestic Tourism Vital for Kashmir’s Economy

While acknowledging the interest of foreign tourists, Burza emphasized the economic significance of domestic tourists, citing their increased paying capacity. He identified Kashmir as the preferred destination for high-end domestic tourists, contributing significantly to the local economy through spending on accommodations and local arts and crafts.

Film Industry Boosts Tourism

The support from the film industry, with many movies and TV series shot in the valley, has played a pivotal role in attracting tourists. Burza expressed hope for increased footfall in the upcoming weeks, buoyed by ongoing and upcoming film projects set against the breathtaking backdrop of Kashmir.

Diversifying Tourism: Exploring Off-beat Destinations

Secretary Shah outlined the positive trajectory of tourism in Jammu and Kashmir, citing awards and appreciation for new destinations. He emphasized the focus on diversifying the tourism portfolio by promoting off-beat destinations like Sonamarg, Doodhpatri, Bhaderwah, and Sanasar, aiming to enhance livelihoods and enrich the overall tourist experience.

Winter Season: A Core Focus

Highlighting the significance of the winter season, Shah revealed a comprehensive focus on destinations beyond Gulmarg, including Sonamarg, Doodhpatri, Bhaderwah, and Sanasar. The goal is to broaden the appeal of Kashmir as a winter destination and provide visitors with a diverse range of tourism products.

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