It’s snowing in Jammu & Kashmir, paradise on Earth, and holiday makers are flocking back to their favourite holiday destination in the Himalayas! Travellers are fast filling up hotel rooms in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and, of course, the charming houseboats on Nigeen and Dal lakes in Srinagar.
The snow has brought in much awaited relief to the travel and hospitality sector in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) in the northern part of India. Travel to the region was completely disrupted by the lockdowns imposed due to revocation of the Special Status in August 2019 and then the Covid-19 pandemic from early March this year. As per data shared by the department of tourism, Jammu & Kashmir witnessed the highest tourist arrivals in 2012, with 1,308,765 visitors. While these figures remained healthy in the subsequent years, one saw a slow down in 2019 where the month of June 2019 recorded just over 100,000 arrivals, which dropped to around 43,000 tourists between August and December 2020 and saw only 19,000 until September 2020, with most arrivals being before March 2020.
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Now, with snowfall and the resumption of air travel, one can see the tide turn in the Valley, with a surge in inquiries and bookings in the main tourist centres, especially Gulmarg. This has brought a great deal of cheer among stakeholders as tourism is a key contributor to J&K’s economy, accounting for almost 7 per cent of the GDP.
Though Gulmarg is a year round destination blessed with a salubrious climate and immense scenic beauty, winters are a sight to behold. The panoramic views and snow-clad mountains are not only a visual treat but also a haven for adrenaline junkies and romantics alike. Its unique, backcountry skiing slopes attract skiers from around the world. The snowy vista lends a fairy tale air to the entire area. One can indulge in some heady action — skiing, heli-skiing, ice-skating, snowboarding, a ride on the Gondola [it takes over 600 visitors and skiers per day to Kongdoori Mountain on the shoulder of Mount Affarwat, the highest ski point in the Himalayas at 4,390 m].
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Come spring and summer thrill seekers can opt for hiking and trekking, the most exhilarating is the hike to the frozen Alpather Lake, at the base of the Apharwat peak at 4,200m. And it is this famed venue in the Himalayas that set the stage for Gulmarg’s first luxury resort, The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa. This international class, 85-key resort, with its awe-inspiring location at an elevation of 2,690m offers breathtaking views.
The Khyber broke a new dawn when it opened doors in the winter of 2012. Since then, it has been continuing to win accolades for its impeccable service, warm hospitality and facilities at par with international standards. Also situated here is The Khyber Spa by L’occitane with stunning vistas from all its treatment rooms, offering luxurious and holistic spa treatments inspired by the rituals of Provence, France. The Wellness Block includes a gym, and a heated indoor swimming pool. The resort is just a 10-minute walk from the world’s highest golf course and a stone’s throw from Gulmarg’s famed Gondola, the highest ski lift in the world, making it a ski-in – ski-out resort. To book visit www.khyberhotels.com