Omicron shadow over Kashmir’s winter wonderland; 30 per cent bookings cancelled

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Tourism activities hit, tour operators, hoteliers worried; say bad luck yet again

Gulmarg, Jan 15 : As Omicron variant of virus casts shadow over the Kashmir’s winter tourist spot—Gulmarg, hoteliers and tour operators here are worried as bookings have started to get cancelled while as tourism activities are coming to a halt gradually. Tour operators say that 30 per cent bookings have got cancelled in the past few days.

People associated with different business sectors at the winter wonderland Gulmarg expressed their concerns saying that their work has got affected largely and the flow of tourists has come down highly.

“We have witnessed 30 per cent cancellation of bookings,” said a tour operator, while speaking to news agency. “This all happened due to the outbreak of new virus variant Omicron.”

J&K has recorded over 22 cases of Omicron recently while as Covid cases have increased manifold. The UT also reports two to four Covid related deaths on an average every day.

The tour operators and hoteliers at Gulmarg resort told KNO that their business is getting badly hit yet again like in 2020 and 2021.

“As a result, hoteliers, snow biking, Horse sledging, skiing and other adventure sports activities have come to a halt,” they said.

Mukhtar Ahmad, president of Hoteliers Association Gulmarg while expressing concerns related to business loss said that whenever there is any such situation, the only sector that is directly and first affected is tourism as seen in the past two years.

“In such a situation travel gets affected and people face difficulties. All travellers including those coming for leisure trips and winter sports remain hesitant to visit Gulmarg in the wake of Omicron and Covid spread,” he said, adding that “We have not seen tourists for a year in the previous season given the virus threat while the khelo India game gave a boost but yet again we are again back to square one.”

He maintained that the hoteliers at Gulmarg constantly encourage the guests to follow all the precautionary measures and ensure proper behaviour, but “the fact remains that tourism has once again got hit badly.”

Zubair Ahmad, president of ATV Bikes operating at Gulmarg said that their business is getting directly affected. “If there are restrictions there won’t be a flow of tourists which means loss to us. Out of 100 tourists, 30 would opt for our services. The situation is grim again,” he said.

Sledge Association president Tariq Ahmad said that they are witnessing less tourist arrivals since past ten days. “This indeed is a bad luck,” he lamented.

Notably, Kashmir valley is seen as the hub of tourism activities not only in summers but in winters as well while Gulmarg is famously known for skiing, snow biking and other winter games when it snows in the valley