Snowfall Beckons Tourists To Gulmarg
6 January 2006
Gulmarg: Even as most people in Kashmir valley are loathe over the heavy snowfall due to hardships caused by it, people around this world famous ski resort are happy as 'white flakes' from the skies have attracted adventure tourists to support their livelihood. Nearly 70 foreign tourists have arrived here after the heavy snowfall on the New Year day, Assistant Director Tourism Abid Ahmad Bhat told PTI. He said the number was a significant increase from just five foreign tourists on December 28 last year. Asked about the activities of the tourists, he said they were mostly into skiing and snow-boarding from high altitudes of Afferwat and Kangdoori. The snowfall has also boosted the arrival of domestic tourists to the snow-bound valley with nearly 300 of them visiting everyday. However, most of the local tourists prefer to return to Srinagar after enjoying here during the day, Bhat said. The tourist arrivals have brought smiles on the faces of the residents of villages around Gulmarg like Tangmarg, Kunzer, Chandiloora, Ferozpora and Baba Reshi. 'The arrival of tourists means livelihood for us. We act as guides or ski instructors to the tourists, which supports our families,' Farooq Ahmad Bhat, a resident of nearby Tangmarg village, said. He said a ski instructor can earn anything between Rs 200 to Rs 500 per day depending on the type of services sought by the tourists. 'Besides Rs 150 for the skiing equipment, we charge Rs 350 for the whole day to teach the tourists basics of skiing. However, an hourly service at the rate of Rs 100 is also available for those who just want to get the thrills without any seriousness about learning the sport,' Bhat said. The sledge pullers are also doing brisk business as they charge Rs 130 per hour from the tourists to show them around the Gulmarg valley. The main route for the sledge tour starts from Gondola cable car and passes through the church, golf course, club house and back to the cable car. The tourists then take a ride in the Gondola to Kongdoori or Afferwat, Mohammad Yaseen Khan, a sledge puller said. Khan said most of the sledge pullers turn ponnywallas during summer which meets much of their monetary needs but the tourism in Gulmarg should be year round so that people associated with the trade can think about turning it into a full time job. 'We are not demanding government jobs or any concessions from the government but it should ensure that tourists keep thronging this place so that we don't have to worry about our future,' Ghulam Rasool, another sledge puller, said. The hotel owners also agree that Gulmarg had the potential to develop as an all year tourist destination but the state government needs to promote it more aggressively within and outside the country. 'The guests have started turning up as per their schedule and we expect a bumber winter tourism season,' Abdul Rashid, General Manager of Hotel Hill Top, said.