Fireworks lit the night sky as hordes of tourists flocked to this world famous ski resort braving sub-zero temperatures to usher in the New Year.
As tourists danced with gay abandon to famous Bollywood numbers and exchanged hugs at the stroke of midnight,the unprecedented rush of visitors at this time of the year brought smiles to the faces of tourism authorities and hotel operators alike.
The tourist resort at an altitude of 8,000 feet,also known as the Switzerland of Asia,had packed bookings with tourists pouring in from across the country and foreign destinations as well.
“I have never seen such a huge rush in Gulmarg and I wish that this flow of tourists does not end ever. Such developments augur well for the economy of families who are engaged in providing sledges,skiing and sale of handicrafts,” says Minister of State for Tourism Nasir Aslam.
Chief Executive of Gulmarg Development Authority Mehmood Ahmed Shah said that all hotels were 100 per cent packed and requests were still pouring in from various sections to accommodate more and more people.
“My phone has not stopped ringing since morning as it seems everyone wants to spend his new year in this exotic tourist spot,” Shah said.
The state tourism department had organised a cultural evening with a small cracker show.
Private hotels in the area drew large number of tourists and one could hear people singing and in a boisterous mood to welcome 2012.
For Masroor Hussain,General Manager of a Royal Park hotel,it was a new experience all together. “I have never seen such a crowd in last five years of my service. We organised the musical evening but seems we underestimated the crowd,” he said.
Tourists from various states including West Bengal,Gujarat,Maharashtra and Delhi had a memorable experience when the first ever display of fireworks organised by the state government kept them spellbound.
“I had heard a lot about this place but I guess seeing is believing,” says Rahul,a resident of Uttar Pradesh,while looking at the snow-capped Peer Panjal range.
Chief General Manager Hill Top hotels Vinod Bhat said tourists were looking for a fun-filled holiday to begin their new year. “Its wonderful finally to see tourist pouring in to this destination,” he said.
The temperature as recorded by the Met Office at the new year midnight was minus three but camp fires brought some warmth.
“I only hope that this trend continues and Kashmir’s tourism industry takes a big leap forward,” said Nasir Aslam.