Tourists have been once again making a beeline to the picturesque Indian-controlled Kashmir that witnessed a major dip in the number of visitors due to the five-month unrest in the wake of the killing of young militant commander Burhan Wani by security forces.
The majority of tourists, both domestic and international, are heading to the ski resort town of Gulmarg, barely a two-hour drive from state capital Srinagar, which has recently received the season’s first snow and is now enveloped with a thick blanket of ice.
“It’s breathtaking. We are visiting here for the first time and looking like we are in India’s Switzerland,” said Rob Tully, a British tourist, who reached Gulmarg Thursday after taking a flight to Srinagar from Delhi.
“We intend to spend a week in Gulmarg before going to other places,” he added.
Tour operators in Delhi said they are receiving a number of requests for bookings for Kashmir. “A number of people are now travelling to the beautiful northern state to enjoy the snow. We are getting a lot of bookings and our business is flourishing these days,” said Dolly Singh, a travel agent.
A week’s tour package to Kashmir, which includes three days stay in Gulmarg, comes at a minimum cost of Rs 35,000 (500 U.S. dollars) per person, excluding airfare. “I will be heading to Kashmir next week with my family to enjoy snow,” said Rajan Gupta, a Delhi resident.
An official from Jammu and Kashmir Tourism said they are suddenly witnessing a spurt in the number of tourists to the northern region. “We hope the trend continues upward as the winter is yet to peak and the situation becomes fully normal soon,” he said.
The violent protests that erupted in Kashmir in the wake of 22-year-old Wani’s killing in July, claimed the lives of nearly 100 people, while over 12,000 were injured in the clashes between the crowds and security forces.