Gulmarg- A white carpet of otherwise green meadows greets tourists in Jammu and Kashmir’s “mini Switzerland”. The recent spells of snowfall in the Union Territory have brought the resort — at an altitude of 8,000 feet, 50 km north of the summer capital Srinagar — to life with the place brimming with visitors.
Soumya Srivastav, a tourist from Australia, could not resist but marvel, “I feel like I am in heaven. It is so awesome here.”
The famous ski-resort here is a top draw for tourists from across the country and abroad with over 6,000 visiting on a daily basis.
Srivastav said, “I am basically from Kathmandu, married to a Kashmiri man and currently living in Australia.”
The snow-capped mountains and white-carpet meadows form quite the backdrop for the resort, which also offers a wide range of winter activities such as skiing.
The last few years have been good for the tourism sector in Kashmir — often poetically referred to as “paradise on Earth”. The region witnessed booming tourism seasons, especially after countries reopened their borders in the aftermath of COVID-19.
According to the Union Territory government, last year was one of the best seasons for the tourism industry as the Valley witnessed a record number of tourist arrivals.
Gulmarg, especially in winter, is the most popular among the many places on Kashmir’s tourist map. Tourist arrivals have spiked after the recent snowfall.
“We have an average of around 6,000 tourist arrivals here daily,” Assistant Director of Tourism (Gulmarg) Javid Rehman told PTI.
The arrivals sharply increased after the snowfall. Last year, 15.42 lakh tourists visited the resort, he said.
“There are 15-20 foreign tourists arriving on an average every day, mostly for skiing,” Rehman said.
Most of the hotels are fully occupied or booked, he added.
Mesmerised by the beauty of the resort, many tourists want to return.
Srivastav, the tourist from Australia, said, “I would love for my friends to come here and see this snow. I am in love with Kashmir and would love to be back very soon.”
Gulmarg is the only place in the country where one can see so much snow, said another tourist.
“This is a beautiful place with an amazing view. This is the only place where we can see so much snow and it feels so good to be here. We would love to come here again and again. We have been here in the summers but this is an entirely different experience,” he said.
Awestruck by the picturesque landscape, Dr CB Patel, a tourist from Gujarat, said, “I will come here whenever Kashmir calls me. We have totally enjoyed our stay. We are fortunate that we got to see so much snow.”
Describing his experience, Manoj, a first-time visitor to the Valley, said, “This snowfall, it is my first experience of life and it is amazing. I would like to come here every year — once in summer and once in winter. We have enjoyed it a lot.”
Farooq, a tourist from Maharashtra, called the ride on the gondola — the second longest and second highest cable car in the world at over 13,780 feet above sea level — an added treat.
“It has been one of the best experiences. The gondola ride is a treat. It is my first time here but I would love to come again and again,” he said.
The snow has not only brought cheer to the tourists but local stakeholders as well.
“When it snows, it brings happiness as it is good for our livelihood. The snow helps us earn more. When there is snowfall, more tourists come and it helps us,” said Mudasir Nabi, who works in the tourism sector.
The snowfall brings cheer and joy to the place and, as far as the economics is concerned, it brings good activity, said Arif Ahmad, another tourism sector player.
He expressed hope that many more tourists will come to Gulmarg to experience the snowfall.
“There are a lot of people associated with this and everything comes to life when it snows. Many people who work here daily, their life depends on the snowfall. It brings a lot of happiness and business activity to this place,” he said.
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