By Sheikh Qayoom, Gulmarg, April 4 IANS | 6 months ago

As this world-famous resort prepares to host a record number of tourists this year, Gulmarg's only 5-star luxury property, the Khyber, claims it is now an internationally-established brand.


Priding itself on two prestigious citations within just 15 months of throwing its doors open for high-end tourists, The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa of the Pinnacle Resorts was conferred a Special Jury Award - Indian Hotel Debut of the Year by Outlook Traveller - and the Best Boutique Hotel in India by Travel Leisure India and South Asia at its India's Best Awards last year.

The luxury hotel was launched in December 2012 when sceptics said Gulmarg might not be the best place for such a property as Kashmir's tourism mostly remains limited to four to five months of the year. This was just another reason in addition to the outbreak of violence in 1990s that has plagued Kashmir's tourism for over 20 years.

The resort was completely sold out right from its beginning and Gilles Moutounet, Country Head (India) for L'occitane, said: "The resort has also put Gulmarg on the world map, bringing the celebrated traditions of Provence and Mediterranean well-being to Gulmarg through its unique treatments and products." (The internationally recognised brand L'occitane offers luxurious and holistic spa treatments inspired by French traditions and rituals.)

"We are very excited about the launch of The Khyber Spa, which will certainly be a new landmark for the resort and L'occitane Spas. For brand L'occitane, it is a new, important milestone in the development of our footprint on the Indian sub-continent, which goes parallel to the development of our retail network," Moutounet told IANS.

Umar Tramboo, the local businessman who envisioned the opening of a super-class luxury resort in Gulmarg, seems to be a highly-satisfied man.

"The Khyber Spa is a fusion of Indian and Mediterranean well-being. In order to preserve the beauty and natural environment, the products used are made of natural materials with traceable origins. In addition, features like an in-house laundry and minimalistic use of utilities ensures the most hygienic and eco-friendly experience", Tramboo pointed out.


The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa

Situated 8,825 feet above the sea level in the midst of an endless expanse of pine trees, overlooked by snow-clad peaks of the Affarwat mountain with its magnificent ski slopes and a stone's throw from the world's highest cable car project, the Khyber resort is spread over seven acres of land.

"The awe-inspiring location of the resort, combined with the unfolding drama of Gulmarg's changing seasons, has been tempting guests to return again and again," the management claimed.

The fact that even before this year's tourist season gets going, the resort is already flooded with bookings proves one simple fact: Gulmarg's potential as one of the most sought-after tourist destinations is still not fully explored.

More than 1.1 million tourists, including domestic and foreign, visited the Valley last year. This happened despite fears being expressed that the hanging last year of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru would adversely affect arrivals.

Tourist department officials say they are expecting the number to increase this year.

The other major tourist destinations in the Valley, including south Kashmir's Pahalgam and north Kashmir's Sonamarg hill stations, are also looking forward to their share of visitors this year.

"We survive on tourism and how much its absence has caused us and our families during the years when Kashmir remained in the throes of violence cannot be imagined by anybody else," said a hotelier in Sonamarg, adding there was over eight feet of snow on the ground outside his hotel at present.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at sheikh.abdul@ians.in)

(Posted on 04-04-2014)

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