Gulmarg's famed cable car, Gondola, which is a major attraction for tourists visiting Kashmir, has seen a good business this year despite the season getting marred by four months of unrest.
The revenue earned by the Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation (JKCCC), which maintains the Gondola, has been Rs 10.57 crore till October, the second highest earned by the corporation in a year since it started operations over a decade ago.
Around four lakh people, including domestic and foreign tourists, took the ride on the Gondola this year, one of the longest and highest ropeways in Asia which covers an aerial distance of five kms connecting Gulmarg with Kangdoor in the first phase and with Apharwat, at an altitude of 13,400 ft, in the second phase.
"Most of the domestic tourists are coming from West Bengal, Maharashtra and Gujarat and the bulk of foreign tourists are from Japan and south-east Asia," Managing Director of JKCCC Talat Parvez said.
Parvez said the cable service was stopped for 25 days when the Valley witnessed widespread protests in August and September and vehicles were grounded across the Valley.
"For 25 days we had to stop our work due to law and order problem. The unrest has been damaging but not to much extent. We are earning 2.50 lakh per day. The number of tourists taking the ride is 300 per day and we expect this to increase on Diwali," he said.
Last year when the Valley witnessed street protests after the death of two women in south Kashmir's Shopian district, the Corporation earned Rs 13.34 crore - a record amount since the Gondola started commercial operations in May 1998. The number of tourists visiting Gulmarg that year was 4.15 lakh.
In 2008, when the Valley was shut for more than two months during the land row agitation, the amount earned was Rs 7.61 crore and the number of tourists who enjoyed the ride was 3.37 lakh.
Work on Gulmarg Gondola Project (Phase-I and Phase-II) began in 1987 and the work for supply, erection, installation and commissioning was awarded to Pomagalski, a French company.
Gulmarg or the 'meadow of flowers', 51 km south west of Srinagar and at 2,653 meters above sea level, is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the Valley.