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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

With wedding season around the corner, Kashmir packages soar

Himani Chandna Gurtoo, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 14, 2012
First Published: 21:30 IST(14/10/2012) | Last Updated: 21:32 IST(14/10/2012)

The big fat north Indian wedding season kicks off tomorrow, and brings with it that little something to cheer up the travel industry - the honeymoon tourist.

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Topping the list of favoured destinations is Kashmir, a state from which tourists shied away as recently as three years ago.

"Valley packages are one of the top-selling in the honeymoon category," said Sharat Dhall, president, Yatra.com, a travel portal. "We have sold at least double of what we sold last year." Other travel companies such as Cox & Kings and MakeMyTrip have also seen sales grow by over 50% in the last one year.

Anticipating the influx, locals in Kashmir are busy building capacity and conveniences.

Raufiq Mir, 38, who earns his livelihood by providing hospitality in a houseboat in the Dal Lake, recently spent Rs. 50,000 on renovating his boat.

Normalcy restored in most destinations, more than 1.3 million tourists thronged the Valley - the highest in two decades.

"This year, 1.1 million tourists have already arrived and we expect the total to reach 1.4 million," said Azmat Ali Khan, deputy director, directorate of tourism, Srinagar.

The Valley's bed capacity has grown by 83% in the last three years to about 55,000, as per official estimates.

"Destinations such as Srinagar, Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahalgam and Karta are most sought after especially from north and western India couples," said Karan Anand, head, Cox & Kings.

The strong demand has also pushed up room rentals and ticket prices. "There has been 25-30% increase in prices for air tickets, packages against last year," estimated Mohit Gupta, CBO, MakeMyTrip.

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