Kashmir braces up for mega New Year celebrations

Thousands of tourists expected to throng Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg next week

By: Zehra Shafi

Srinagar: Thousands of tourists—both domestic as well as the foreign are expected to converge at the world famous destinations in Kashmir to celebrate the New Year, despite bone-chilling cold and the looming threat of Omicron–a new variant of Coronavirus, spreading rapidly across the globe.

Over a hundred hotels—luxury and budget class, are nearing cent percent occupancy at Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg as people from different States of India and abroad are expected to reach these hill stations to celebrate the New Year with their friends and families.

While the hotels have organized some events for the visitors, the tourism department has also come up with a series of shows and competitions to make the New Year celebrations more memorable.

The huge rush on the New Year has brought smiles on the faces of people associated with the tourism industry, who bore the brunt of frequent lockdowns due to one reason or another since 2019.

“We are expecting a good number of tourists to reach Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Srinagar on New Year eve. The information we are receiving from the hoteliers is that their bookings are excellent in both Gulmarg and Pahalgam hill stations. Sonamarg too is getting good queries from the tourists,” Secretary, Tourism and Culture, Sarmad Hafeez told Precious Kashmir.

He said that all facilities are available for tourists in Gulmarg and Pahalgam while hoteliers in Sonamarg have also made adequate arrangements, including heating, to receive tourists.

“Besides, we are also planning festivals during the winter, starting with the one-week Christmas and New Year festival in Gulmarg, followed by a snow carnival. In Pahalgam and Sonamarg also, we are planning a series of festivals and events,” he said.

Kashmir provides a unique winter experience. It is the most beautiful winter destination in the country. The snow, the kind of ambience and the overall environment, is unmatched,” he added.

The Khyber Himalayan Resorts & SPA, which has been voted favourite boutique Hotel – India at the 2021 Condé Nast Traveller, India, Readers’ Travel Awards last week, has also reached 100 percent occupancy.

All the 80 rooms in deluxe and luxury categories, besides the 5 cottages have been booked by the tourists from India and abroad.

“The hotel is booked 100 per cent. We are also planning events for in-house guests on New Year eve,” Anuradha Kapoor from the PR and media information department told Precious Kashmir.

J&K Hoteliers Club Chairman Mushtaq Chaya also expressed satisfaction over the bookings ahead of New Year celebrations.

“The bookings in Gulmarg are pretty good. Pahalgam and Srinagar will also have a good number of tourists in the coming days,” Chaya said, adding that he was hopeful the occupancy will reach cent percent in Gulmarg after December 25.

Pertinently, the tourism department last week notified rates for the year 2021-22 and 2022-2023 for various services being offered to the tourists by registered tourist traders at various destinations across the Valley.

Nadeem Wahid, a Srinagar-based tour operator, said that queries from tourists are pouring in for Pahalgam and Sonamarg hill stations as all the hotels and guest houses at the world famous ski-resort of Gulmarg remain “sold out” on New Year.

“Now, Pahalgam is emerging as the second favorite New Year destination for the tourists. We receive dozens of queries everyday from travellers who want to visit Pahalgam next week,” he said.

He further added that the brisk business in winter season has given hope to the tourism players to recover the losses suffered in summer due to Coronavirus imposed lockdown.

“If the winter season goes well, we will be able to compensate for some of the losses we suffered due to various reasons, especially lockdowns during the last three years. Fingers crossed, hopes are high,” Wahid said with a smile on his face.

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