Snowfall revives hopes for vibrant Kashmir tourism


The season’s first major snowfall in Kashmir on new year’s eve has revived hopes for a vibrant tourist season after the summer unrest marred inflow of vacationers into the Valley.

Tourism officials say the snowfall is likely to attract the tourists to the Valley, which is known for its breathtaking locations, winter sports and hospitality.

“So far tourist season is okay. But we hope as the news of snowfall reaches out, it will bring more tourists,” managing director of Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation (JKCCC) Talat Parvez said.

JKCCC manages the famed Gondola cable car, a major tourist attraction that earned nearly Rs12 crore last year.

Despite a tumultuous 2010, the revenue earned by JKCCC is the second highest in a calendar year since it started its operation over a decade ago.

Earlier, the tourism officials were hopeful that snow-covered Gulmarg will attract large number of tourists, who will be spending Christmas and New Year holidays at the resort.

But there was no white Christmas in Gulmarg this season and the plan to have a gala event on the occasion was cancelled.

“We did not organise any festival on December 25 to December 31, because there was no snowfall. Now we hope the recent snowfall will help,” Parvez said.

Jammu and Kashmir Tourism department’s director Farooq Shah said they are expecting a good response from tourists this winter.

“Kashmir is famous for its winter. Recently, Gulmarg was named among the top 10 ski-resorts in the Asia. So with snow we expect a good response, mostly from foreigners who come here for skiing and also from domestic tourists who come to see snow,” Shah said.

Gulmarg or the ‘meadow of flowers’, 52 km south west of Srinagar and at 2,653 meters above sea level, is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the Valley, which provides opportunities for adventure sports in the winter months.

The tourist season in the valley had begun on a positive note with more than five lakh visitors flocking to Kashmir in the first five months of last year, raising the hopes that the 21-year-old record of nearly one million tourist arrivals will be broken in 2010.

However, state tourism industry suffered a disastrous mid-way after June when months of street protests and curfews shut down the valley with holidaymakers fleeing the valley.

The sector showed some signs of recovery towards end of the year with more than two lakh visitors arriving in the valley in the last three months, officials added.