Hot spot: Kashmir is a favourite holiday destination for tourists from Jharkhand
This summer, it’s kaleidoscopic Jammu and Kashmir once again.
Families, couples and even students are lapping up holiday offers to the erstwhile princely state and Bollywood’s utopia that is still poetically referred to as the paradise on earth. The breathtaking landscapes of Srinagar, Jammu, Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg are the top draws for tourists now that militancy no longer threatens the peace of the romantic getaway.
Last year, approximately 20,000 people from Jharkhand had picked Kashmir as their summer capital. If tour and travel agencies are to be believed, the number has almost tripled this time, with around 50,000-60,000 people eyeing bookings for May-June.
Agencies claim that every week, 15-20 people were falling for attractive packages like six days seven nights for anything between Rs 15,000 and Rs 40,000 per person, depending on the type of accommodation.
Joy Masroor, the owner of Regency Tours & Travels, said last year they had booked 25 packages for Kashmir and hoped to cross the target this time. “Since February, we have already booked seven tours. More families, couples and student groups are enquiring about what is on offer. The numbers will definitely swell,” he added.
Equally sanguine is Prabhat Kumar Gupta who runs Drishti Travels in Ranchi.
“Earlier, Shimla-Manali were top destinations. But now, Kashmir — which was a choice getaway decades ago — has stolen the holiday show once again. The Jammu and Kashmir tourism industry is luring people with the promise of safety and much more,” he said.
Last year, the travel agency had hit a century in terms of packages. “This time, our booking window opened in the second week of February and we have been selling six tours every week since,” Gupta said, adding that he himself went to Kashmir with his family recently and was surprised to see the facelift its various hotspots have undergone.
“The only thing that plagues the beautiful valley is political problems, but they affect tourists in no way. New hotels have opened up and films are being shot again. We remember the Swinging Sixties when Kashmir ki Kali and Junglee were filmed. Now, there is 2012 blockbuster Jab Tak Hai Jaan,” he said.
Travel agents said quite a few Ranchi schools had also booked packages for Kashmir. “At least two schools I know are taking students for a holiday there after the annual examination,” said owner of Skyline Travels Sony Mehta.
Mehta’s agency is booking as many as 20 tours every week. “It is unexpected. Over the past month, we have booked 500-600 packages,” she claimed.
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