As Gulmarg becomes a star destination for tourists despite the ongoing unrest, it will now also host a Winter Carnival this year to end the year in style. With the aid of the Army, the carnival is all set to rock the famed ski resorts of Gulmarg on Sunday with music, skiing, photography, gaming, snow sculpture all part of the event.The festival is in addition to the functions being organised by the local hoteliers for tourists on the New Year’s Eve in the ski resort. For the first time in the last two years, Gulmarg is fully sold out with tourists from different parts flocking the ski resort for New Year celebrations.”The Carnival has a plethora of attractions for the tourists such as Snow Scooter, ATV Race, Snowboarding, Sliding and Snowman making competitions, which will be open to locals as well as tourists without any entry fee. Apart from this, there will be a Photography Competition and live performances by local artists and youth from the Chinar 9Jawan Club, Baramulla and Army Bands,” said an Army spokesman.The carnival is aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the people and bringing them closer to the Army. “The event has already created a lot of buzz among the prospective tourists and the local tradesmen who believe that this initiative will not only spread the message of peace and harmony but will also boost the dwindling tourism business at Gulmarg”, said the spokesman.The fledgeling tourism sector has suffered huge losses post-Burhan Wani’s killing that created unrest in the valley last year. Curfews, hartals, stone pelting and encounters have shaken the confidence of the tourists. Post-Burhan Wani killing unrest has cost the hotel industry Rs 1,100 crore.Official data revealed that around three lakh tourists had visited Kashmir between July 2015 and September 2015. The footfall of tourists, however, were reduced to a trickle in the corresponding period of 2016, because of the unrest.Figures reveal around 7.9 lakh tourists visited Kashmir this year. They include over 2.6 lakh Amarnath yatris who visited the cave shrine this year. Last year, 11.27 lakh tourists visited Kashmir — most of them before July 8, when Wani was killed.However, come New Year, and the tourists are making a beeline again to the famed ski resort to bid goodbye to 2017.”Gulmarg is fully packed. All the hotels are 100 per cent booked for two days. Fifty per cent of the people are tourists and the rest are locals. Some of the hotels have organised musical programmes for in-house guests and dinner on New Year’s Eve,” said Mukhtar Ahmad Shah, President J&K Hoteliers Club, Gulmarg.
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