Locals emerge as ray of hope for tourism in Gulmarg, other destinations

Gulmarg: With tourism in Kashmir valley being badly hit due to COVID-19 pandemic, locals have emerged as a ray of hope for people associated with the sector in world famous ski resort of Gulmarg and other tourist destinations.
Hundreds of locals visit tourist destinations — including Gulmarg, world famous health resorts of Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Yusmarg and Doodpather — with their families every day, particularly on the weekends. Tourists from other parts of the country could also been seen clicking pictures in the meadows and streams of these world renounced tourist destinations, though less in number.
Meanwhile, in order to give further boost to the influx of local tourists into Gulmarg, which is known all over the world for its ski slopes and quality of snow, the second phase of Gulmarg Cable Car (GCC) reopened for commercial operation from Saturday. The first phase was reopened on September 27 after remaining suspended from March due to COVID-19.
“We have reopened the second phase of Gulmarg Gondola — Kongdoori to Apharwat — from Saturday. But, the second phase will be operational only on weekends while the first phase will operate seven days a week,” an official at Gulmarg Gondola told UNI.
He said that about 150 people ride Gondola Cable Car on weekends while the number stands at 50 to 60 on week days. “About 60 to 70 per cent who avail Gondola services are locals while the remaining are tourists from other parts of the country. There are no foreign tourists currently visiting Gulmarg,” he said.
He said the numbers were similar last year as well due to unrest in the valley post abrogation of Article 370. “Before that the number of people taking Gandola rides used to range between 400 and 500 per day,” he added.
He said all necessary preventive protocols and SOPs regarding COVID-19 like social distance, sanitization of cabins before and after boarding and deboarding of passengers, wearing of masks, temperature checking etc are being strictly adhered to.
The players associated with tourism — including hoteliers and pony walas — are also exited with some influx of tourists in these resorts. “Since the reopening of first phase of the Cable Car, Gulmarg has witnessed rush of tourists, particularly locals, who come for family picnics to the resort. Local tourists don’t spend much, but they have brought some relief to people associated with tourism, including pony walas, ATV drivers and dhabas,” Sahaba, an ATV driver in Gulmarg said.
“As there were no tourists, I was forced to work as labourer on construction sites from last couple of months to feed my family. COVID-19 pandemic and unrest post August 5 last year, have taken a heavy toll on all the players associated with tourism. But, as the tourists have once again thronged to Gulmarg, I alongwith other ATV drivers and pony walas have started to slowly earn our livelihood,” he added.
Similarly, rush of locals, particularly on weekends, in other tourists destinations has brought some relief to the people associated with the sector, which has received sever blows due to COVID-19 pandemic and post August 5, 2019 situation.