Mubashir Aalam Wani
Srinagar, Jan 29: The fresh snowfall on the higher reaches of the valley has resurged the demand for Kashmir, with tourists booking their trips in bulk for the coming weeks.
Valley for the last two months has been witnessing a snowless winter, which cast its shadow on the tourism sector.
While the bookings have been falling, a major chunk of tourists postponed or canceled their trips in the absence of snow.
The valley’s upper reaches have witnessed fresh spells of snow for the last two days, which led to the revival of the tourist flow to Kashmir.
Travel agents anticipate that the booking will go up to more than 70 percent for February.
“Kashmir tourism witnessed losses during January. Now, higher reaches in Kashmir witnessed fresh snowfall, which subsequently led to a spurt in bookings. We are getting a good number of inquiries from tourists for upcoming weeks and we expect the bookings to surge by more than 70 percent in February,” Farooq Ahmad Kuthoo, a travel agent and former president of Travel Agents Association of Kashmir said.
He said the resumption of the winter adventure will further scale up the flow of tourists. “We are expecting heavy snowfall in the coming days. Tourists are rushing to book their trips to Kashmir,” Kuthoo said.
Hoteliers and houseboat owners too said they are witnessing a surge in inquiries and bookings for February. “For the last two months, Kashmir’s snowless winter has been in the news. Now with this snowfall, positive news has gone out. It may certainly help us with current bookings. For the whole year clients wait for snowfall and book their trip immediately once they get news about snowfall in Kashmir,” Manzoor Ahmad Pakhtoon, chairman Houseboat Owners Association Kashmir, said.
He said the bookings will further go up as Kashmir receives more snow. “January and February snowfall plays an important role in attracting tourists for the rest of the Spring season. Higher peaks are covered with snow till May and tourists get to see blossoms as well as snow during the spring season in Kashmir,” Pakhtoon said.
Meanwhile, all roads are leading to Gulmarg as tourists and locals rush in numbers to witness the snowfall.
Adventure including ATKs, snow sledging and skiing has resumed at Gulmarg after a gap of more than a month.
With predictions about more snowfall, officials said a robust planning about national winter sports will also follow.
Emphasizing the potential for a revival in February and March if the valley experiences significant snowfall, Gowhar Maqbool, a senior member of the hotelier union said that the impact of cancellations and postponements on tourist bookings due to prolonged dry weather conditions led to the extremely low occupancy in their range of hotels.
“Precious time is already lost, but we still have months of February and March. If there is a good snowfall, the bookings can spike again”, he said.
Tourism stakeholders associated with tourism trade in Srinagar stated that if the weather takes a favourable turn, they are eyeing a positive shift, anticipating a re-boost in bookings.