Gulmarg, Feb 7: Gulmarg, the picturesque hill station in Kashmir, has experienced a significant influx of tourists, recording a staggering 20,000 arrivals in just six days. The surge was witnessed following the end of a prolonged dry spell that had impacted the tourist destination.
Gulmarg, hailed as the winter wonderland, nestled in the Pir Panjal range in Kashmir is renowned for its breathtaking snow-covered meadows and world-class skiing facilities.
With the recent snowfall transforming the destination into a picture-perfect landscape, visitors started classic winter activities here. The delighted tourists are seen immersing themselves in the magic of snow, with a few creating snowmen and engaging in cheerful snowball fights.
A top official in the tourism department, Gulmarg, said that the destination witnessed a staggering influx of 19,532 tourists within just six days following the end of the prolonged dry spell. This notable surge includes 15,086 domestic visitors, 4,290 locals, and 156 foreigners.
“The charming landscape of Gulmarg, adorned with a fresh blanket of snow after the extended dry spell, has proven to be a magnet for tourists seeking winter experiences and snow-related activities,” he said.
Local businesses, including hotels, restaurants and adventure sports operators, are experiencing a boost in demand as visitors flock to explore the scenic beauty and engage in various winter sports offered in the region.
Tariq Ahmed, Gulmarg Guide Association President, said the losses incurred during the dry spell are irreplaceable; however, the significant increase in tourist rush, coupled with a 20-30% surge in bookings brings a ray of hope to Gulmarg’s tourism sector.
“With more tourists showing interest and bookings on the rise, we’re hopeful and looking forward to better days ahead,” he said.
Earlier, the association said the industry faced a substantial 60 percent decline in bookings during the period of dry spell.
Similarly, Zahoor Ahmed Wani, President of the All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) Association, said that with the recent snowfall, their businesses have seen a significant boost, experiencing a notable 25 percent increase. “We anticipate this positive trend to continue and we’re optimistic that it may rise up to 50 percent by the 15th of this month,” he said.
Wani said that during the dry spell in November, December and January, their businesses were struggling, with only a meagre 10 percent of the usual activity.
A tour operator based in Baramulla said, “The recent snowfall has reignited the interest of travellers and we are delighted to see a surge in reservations as visitors eagerly embrace the magical winter experiences Gulmarg has to offer.”
Tufail Ahmed, another tour operator, said the recent snowfall has been a game-changer for them. “Travellers who hesitated due to the dry spell are now excitedly confirming their bookings. The winter wonderland is back in action,” he said, adding that their cellphones are ringing off the hook with inquiries and rebookings.
Meanwhile, skiers, who eagerly awaited the transformation of the famous ski resort, expressed happiness and satisfaction as the recent snowfall covered Gulmarg’s slopes in a pristine white blanket. The skiers from various parts of the country are eagerly waiting to carve through the freshly powdered terrain of the region.
“Gulmarg is back in action and so are we,” a group of skiers, who were unable to contain their excitement, expressed their happiness.
According to Waseem Ahmed, a ski trainer, “Skiing down these slopes is not just a sport, but a deep connection with nature and right now, nature is at its most beautiful here. As skiers, we are thrilled to be back on these mountains, enjoying the pure delight of skiing in Gulmarg.”
Farhat Naik, a snowboarding instructor said, “My bookings for December and January were unfortunately cancelled due to the dry spell; however, with the recent fresh snowfall in Gulmarg, there’s been a significant increase in bookings. The transformation is truly remarkable, and I’m excited to welcome eager learners back to the slopes.”
He said they have already lost at least 40 days to the dry spell, a period that can’t be conquered or regained. “But we are ready to make the most of the remaining season and provide our learners with the best skiing experience,” he said.
Aamir Syed, another skier, said “The snowfall has not only covered the slopes but also our hearts with joy.”
Similarly, a seasoned sledger, Abid Hussain said the snowfall after the dry spell is more than just a white carpet. “It is our lifeline as it brought a sense of relief and a promise of survival to us. For sledge owners like us, the snowfall is akin to a rebirth. It brings back the thrill of our businesses and infuses life into Gulmarg’s winter economy,” he said.