Gulmarg was in news recently because of an unfortunate Gondola tragedy. Despite the ‘freak’ accident which claimed the lives of a few travellers, tourism in Gulmarg has largely remained unabated. Also, a high-powered committee has been constituted to look into lapses. We spoke to Mahmood Shah, Director (Tourism), Kashmir who expressed confidence in the diversity of state’s tourism products and the plethora of activities in the offing in pulling tourists to the valley.
The Gondola incident has come at a bad time for the state. Would you say that this is somewhat of a double-whammy for tourism in the valley, considering the already subdued atmosphere?
First and foremost, it was a natural calamity and could have happened anywhere. Gondola has one of the highest safety standards and there have been no casualties up till this unfortunate incident. Unfortunately, on that day, we had a sudden wind storm by virtue of which a tree was uprooted and fell on the line. The cable got derailed because of this incident and the derailment led to the slackness of the cable. The slacking cable fell on to the ground and rebounded, but, unfortunately, due to this, the cabinet in which the deceased were sitting also fell and victims succumbed on impact. The government has put up an enquiry, which will comprise of high-profile members and investigation is being done to figure out what went wrong.
Gondola aside, is the larger tourism pull still intact? What has been the latest trend in terms of footfalls?
Arrival is on the lower side because of the unrest and it has nothing to do with this incident.
Going forward, are there any new promotional strategies that you will be deploying in the market?
We are about to launch our summer campaign in print and electronic media. We are also participating in various tourism marts as well as road shows.
One of your pet projects is promoting high-altitude lakes in Kashmir– a product you have personally worked so much on. Has there been any growth on that front?
Right now, it is the trekking season so there are a lot of trekkers in the area. We have made many trekking maps for these trails and a lot of peaks have already been opened to tourists. We have partnered with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation(IMF) for these treks and there are various events planned as far as climbing is concerned. The ‘Climbathon’ has been planned along with various other expeditions. So, there is a lot in the pipeline.