As temperatures plummet, tourist operators have seen their takings rise, thanks to those heading for the ‘white heavens’.
Recent snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand has been attracting newly married couples, families and singletons from Delhi and other areas, all hoping to enjoy the sudden cold snap.
Tourist agencies, data aggregators and those who organise hiking on the Himalayan slopes admit their cash registers have been continuously ringing.
Manmeet Ahluwalia, marketing head, Expedia in India, said: ‘With it beginning to snow, we have seen a sudden surge in bookings for several destinations as the north of India turns into a winter wonderland.’
Shimla: Tourists enjoy the weather after a fresh snowfall at Mahasu peak in Kufri
He added: ‘With snowfall engulfing J&K, Uttarakhand and HP, queries for destinations like Gulmarg, Manali, Keylong, Auli, Shimla, Mandi, Kullu, Kinnaur and Dharamsala have gone up by 35 per cent, and with extended weekends just around the corner for Christmas, we are expecting this number to go up further.’
Manmeet said that his company was seeing most interest from young couples and singles.
However with winter vacations starting next week, the queries and booking for families are also expected to increase.
The Kashmir region shivered under intense cold conditions with the ski resort of Gulmarg recording the coldest December night in a decade at minus 10 degrees Celsius on Thursday.
The night temperature dipped across most of the Kashmir division. Kargil was the coldest place in J&K at minus 10.2 degrees Celsius.
The mercury in Qazigund in south Kashmir settled at minus 1.8 degrees, while Kokernag town recorded a minimum of minus 3.4 degrees.
Patnitop: Tourists walk on a snow covered track at Nathatop near Patnitop, about 135 kms from Jammu
After heavy snow blanketed most parts of the state in white crystals, the conditions have also raised the prospects of winter sports.
With the Kailash mountain range — Asha Pati, Seoj Dhar, Chattar Gali, Goldanda, Jaie and Hanga in Bhaderwah — receiving snow, hoteliers and people connected with the tourism industry are upbeat that tourists will arrive in large numbers.
Tariq Choudhary, president, Tours and Travel Association, Bhaderwah, said: ‘Tourists have already started pouring in from Mumbai, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bangalore and Delhi. We are hopeful that tourists will converge in large number this season.
‘We received moderate snowfall which is good for the tourism industry. Tourist can enjoy the snow and easily travel to snowcovered high-altitude destinations.’
Last year, thanks to a scanty winter and very little snow, the tourism industry took a blow, which for a conflict-ridden state like J&K, meant a huge economic loss.
Uttarakhand and Himachal also largely depend on tourist inflow.
Anticipating the arrival of a large number of tourists during the winter season, authorities in Shimla alerted the administration in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and also taxi and tour operators to educate tourists about safety measures when travelling to Himachal’s capital.
In a snow advisory to visitors, especially from Punjab and Haryana, the deputy commissioner has asked them to hire trained drivers, carry blankets and avoid bringing infants and elderly people.
Authorities said the advisory, which is prepared every year ahead of the winter season, has been sent to all Deputy Commissioners.