Based at a scenic terrain up in the Himalayas, Pradeep Bajwal interacts online with his clients in cities like Mumbai and Gurgaon. The 22-year-old native of Kedarnath valley is among nearly 100 youths who have forayed into a new type of tourism business from this pilgrim site.
‘Luxury tented colony’ is what the rustic entrepreneurs highlight as their USP. Put up amid lush greenery that promises close experience with nature at a height of 8,500 feet, the top-facility accommodations can be booked online.
The new business spirit, backed by manageable English and basic internet-operating skills, comes as a refreshing change to this Uttarakhand district that was battered by flashfloods in 2013.
Today, youths from the villages centering Osara have lent a fresh lease of life across the green pastures of Chopta and Dugalbitta that are favourites of national and international tourists.
The calamity that shook this hill state three years ago killed over 5,000 people in the Kedarnath valley, bringing tourism to near-standstill.
It was then that a social worker from the area proposed an idea to counter the morbidity. Gajpal Singh Rawat, who also owns a hotel at Dugalbitta, exhorted local youths to set up tented colonies along the pastures and mobilise them to reignite the region’s tourism fame.
“Initially only four or five boys came forward,” he told HT. “Now, we have almost 100 young entrepreneurs from different villages of Ukhimath block providing tented colonies. It has proved to be a great source of self-employment.”
The youths employ locals as cooks and house-keeping staff.
Around Dugalbitta, youths from the villages Osara, Sari and Makku have set up luxury colonies on the ‘bugyals’ (green pastures) leased out by Van Panchayat for `500 per tent annually under an eco-tourism project.
“Van panchayat leases out the pastures only to locals; so several youngsters have put up their own tent colony,” points out Rawat. “Some are doing it on behalf of tourist companies.”
Sandeep Singh, who runs one such colony, reveals that a tent costs `50,000 to build and lasts two seasons. “We earn enough to recover the cost and make profits,” he says.
Monsoon is a sluggish season for tourism, as most roads turn slushy or get blocked. “But, when autumn comes, there will be a flurry of visitors,” notes Rawat.
In winters, too, tourists come to this district in good numbers to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the unblemished snow. “It is an arduous job for us to maintain the costly tents amid snowfall,” says Singh. “But we love this profession.”