As temperatures soar in the plains, more and more Indians are packing their bags to head to Kashmir; the valley — often described as Heaven on Earth — is witnessing “an unprecedented rush” this summer season.
Data from the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department and the Union Tourism Ministry suggest that the number of tourists between January and May 15 of 2022 jumped to 700,000, over four times the 125,0000 seen in the the same period last year.
From January to April, 600,000 people booked a visit to the valley — which includes Gulmarg, Srinagar, Pahalgam and other areas of Kashmir — the highest in the last 10 years, said sources in the Union Tourism Ministry.
Meanwhile, between October 2021 and March 2022, at least 80 lakh people visited the union territory, said a ministry official, adding that the “unparalleled footfall” is primarily because of “peace in the region and growing confidence in government action towards development of the region”.
The average stay duration for tourists is anywhere from 10 to 15 days and people are willing to spend at least 30–40 per cent more in travelling to the valley, said operators.
According to Aditya Gupta, Senior Vice President, Hotels and Holidays, Yatra.com, there has been an increase in demand and booking queries, which are up by 80 per cent.
“Tourism to the valley — especially to the destinations like Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahalgam, and Srinagar — have increased with the summer season,” he told BusinessLine.
Booking windows are also down, and there are several “last minute bookings”. From previous a 30–45 day time slot (between booking date and travel date), windows are now down to 15–20 days and in some cases, done at a week’s notice too.
Hotel rates up
With increased demand, hotel rates in the valley are up anywhere between 30 – 100 per cent, as per market sources.
EaseMyTrip, the country’s second largest online travel portal, said there is increased interest among travellers to visit Kashmir which has led to a spike in room rates that are expected to remain at elevated levels for the season.
According to Rajeev Kale – President & Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa – Thomas Cook (India), hotels are running at full occupancy and room rates are up 60–100 per cent.
“With the current surge in demand for Kashmir, hotel rates are not expected to change in the near term,” he said. Most hotels have a “strong booking pipeline” till June this year.
Adventure tourism up
A major fillip continues to be adventure tourism and treks. Adventure sports activities — mountain biking, paragliding, hot air balloon rides, river rafting and camping — are picking up in the region. Pandemic-induced travel restrictions have led to travellers opting for outdoor and adventure experiences. The state’s tourism initiatives — such as gondola and shikara rides — are further attracting travellers.
“Trekking routes — which include Gangabal Lake trek, Kashmir Alpine Lake trek, Kolahoi Base Camp trek, etc — are some of the segments that are regaining their popularity,” Kale said.