Javid Amin, Journalist based in Kashmir (J&K). Printer, Publisher, Editor of "Weekly Shohrat - Kashmir" (Print Edition) as well owner of online news portals www.KashmirPost.org / www.KashmirInFocus.com. Aimed at putting Kashmir and its issues on the global platform. An extensively traveled person enjoys writing.

Amid the pandemic both domestic and foreign tourists have started to land in the Valley to welcome 2021 in the snow filled meadows of Gulmarg in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

According to locals and hoteliers, the hill station is witnessing an abrupt flow of the tourists as the New Year is getting closer.

Amid the pandemic both domestic and foreign tourists have started to land in the Valley to welcome 2021 in the snow filled meadows of Gulmarg in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

According to locals and hoteliers, the hill station is witnessing an abrupt flow of the tourists as the New Year is getting closer.

He said, “The current booking consists of 90% of domestic tourists but we are receiving emails and calls from foreigners also regarding the booking for months of February and March.”

Suhail Rashid Wani, manager and in-charge of ropeway services said that they had no expectations of tourists this winter but after the orders from administration in October to resume the ropeway services, they started the services in phased manner. “We resumed the Gondola services to Phase-1 during the first week of October, the tourist flow was not so good at the start but it has kept increasing since then and we expect more increment to it in coming months. On 27th October we resumed the Gondola services to Phase-2 also.”

“Instead of six we are only allowing three people inside the Gondola to maintain social distancing and are strictly following other SOPs too,” Wani said.

Mohammad Shafi, 68, who is a local trader at the famous hill station said that the tourism industry of Kashmir has been deprived of business for a couple of years but they are keeping their hopes high for this winter. “We have faced very tough times for the last couple of years but now as the snow has come early, we are seeing a good flow of tourists and expect it to increase in coming months.”

Seeing the happiness on his wife’s face while she was throwing snow all around her, Abhishek Sharma of Meerut said that Gulmarg is a beautiful place and snowfall has just made it more mesmerizing. “It’s a heaven in heaven, people should visit here and enjoy the hospitality of Kashmiris and the beauty of this place.”

Ashok Ghoankle, 32, of Mumbai said that after landing in Kashmir his mind has been refreshed and the mental trauma that was caused by Covid has been undone by the visit to Kashmir. “It is as if there is no Covid here in Kashmir, people are not worried about it and instead of positive cases it’s a positive atmosphere here.”

“It doesn’t snow in Mumbai and people outside Kashmir are too afraid of COVID. They should come to Kashmir and refresh their minds and souls,” Ghoankle said.

According to the data provided by the tourism department of J&K, a total number of 6327 tourists have visited the Valley in November, of which 6271 are Indians and 56 foreigners.

The data shows that after three months of April, May and June when zero tourists visited the Valley, there has been a gradual increase in the flow since July, when a total number of 186 tourists landed here.

Since then the numbers have been increasing, with August seeing 284 tourists, September witnessing 848, in October 2697 tourists visited and in November the number of tourists that visited are more than double of what it was in October. The data shows a total number of 6327 tourists have visited in November, of which 6271 are domestic and 56 are foreigners.

According to the official data 8,42,202 tourists visited the valley in 2018 and 4,99,582 visited in 2019. The numbers are high when compared to the current year, when only 28030 tourists have landed here till the month of November.

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