[YEAR ENDER] Tourist Boom: Over 1 million tourists flock to Sonamarg, Manasbal this year

Ganderbal, Dec 24: The picturesque locales of Sonamarg and Manasbal, nestled in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, have emerged as the focal points of an unprecedented surge in tourist footfall throughout the outgoing year of 2023.
The twin tourist destinations, known for their natural beauty and cultural richness, have seen a substantial influx of visitors, bringing delight to stakeholders in the local tourism sector.
Those associated with businesses in these areas express profound satisfaction as the region cements its status as a magnet for travellers seeking tranquillity and scenic marvels. Sonamarg, a famous tourist destination in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, also known as the meadow of gold experienced a significant influx of tourists, with nearly 6 lakh tourists visiting the health resort from January till November end. These tourists include domestic visitors, foreigners as well as locals.
Officials informed Greater Kashmir that this marks the first time that Sonamarg has witnessed such a significant influx of visitors, particularly foreign tourists. As per the official figures, the scenic destination saw an impressive 319761 visitors in the first half of the year from January upto July, signalling a significant milestone in the tourism sector here.
Following, the month of August witnessed the enchanting allure of Sonamarg drawing in 20,966 tourists. This comprised 12,406 domestic visitors, 709 foreigners, and 7,851 locals, showcasing a diverse mix of tourists. September witnessed a substantial increase, with 30,075 tourists. Among them were 20,328 domestic visitors, 675 foreigners, and 9,072 locals, reflecting a growing interest from both national and international travellers.
The momentum reached its pinnacle in October, with a staggering 46,187 tourists converging on Sonamarg. This comprised 40,279 domestic tourists, 936 foreigners, and 4,972 locals, marking a peak in the region’s tourist footfall. In the month of November, about 64500 tourists arrive in Sonamarg.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Tourist Officer Sonamarg, Basharat Ahmad, expressed his satisfaction with this remarkable surge. ” Sonamarg has always been a preferred destination for the tourists be it domestic or foreigners, adding that the year 2023 was a very productive year for the tourism sector here.
He said that nearly 6 lakh tourists visited Sonamarg in eleven months and the number is increasing.
The official anticipated that the number will grow further and with the Sonamarg being promoted as a winter destination now, more tourists would love to come here and enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of the hill station. Ahmad emphasised that the continuous influx of more tourists reflects the growing popularity of Sonamarg, positioning it as a thriving hotspot for both domestic and international travellers.
Local businesses and hospitality services have also reaped the benefits of this surge, with increased demand for accommodations, guided tours, and tour and transport services. The success story of Sonamarg’s tourism boom serves as a testament to the region’s natural beauty and the collective efforts of stakeholders working to promote and sustain tourism in this picturesque corner of the Ganderbal district, he added.
Locals said that the “Golden Glory ECO Park,” in the picturesque Sonamarg, has swiftly captured the attention and admiration of tourists. This “Golden Glory ECO Park” was inaugurated by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha this year as part of the visionary initiative ‘Meri Maati Mera Desh,’ marking a pivotal milestone in the region’s tourism development.
The collaborative efforts of the Sonamarg Development Authority (SDA), District Administration Ganderbal, and the Lieutenant Governor’s Administration have been lauded by both tourists and local stakeholders. Their combined dedication has led to the remarkable development of the Golden Glory ECO Park, garnering widespread appreciation for its aesthetic appeal and eco-friendly features. Other sights and attractions in Sonamarg are Fish Point, Thajiwas Glacier, Sarbal and Lashpathri areas.
Similarly, Manasbal, one of the famed health resorts in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district witnessed an exceptional surge in visitors during the outgoing year, with nearly 400,000 tourists, including foreigners, thronging the place. Manasbal Tourist Resort is situated at a distance of 32 km from Srinagar at an altitude of 1,560 meters and can be approached via Ganderbal, Sumbal and Bandipora. Situated at the countryside at a quiet place, the Manasbal Lake is beautifully nestled in a bosom of bewitching Krosh peak which stands at a height of 10300ft above sea level. This is the deepest lake in J&K and is known for the cleanest form of water, water nuts, lotus, lotus roots flowers and underground 1200 perennial springs. The lake harbours a rich variety of flora and fauna. On the bank of the lake exists the heritage Mughal Garden Jharokabagh and a historical ancient Temple.
Chief Executive Officer, of Wular Manasbal Development Authority (WMDA) Ghulam Mohammad Bhat told Greater Kashmir that over 4 lakh tourists including domestic, foreign and locals visited Manasbal this year. CEO said that Manasbal Lake offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, water sports and amusements for which the WMDA, Department of Tourism and District Administration has taken several initiatives to promote it as a thriving hotspot for both domestic and international visitors.
CEO said that water sports activities have been started in Manasbal Lake and received a great response from sports enthusiasts. Besides, the CEO told Greater Kashmir that about 50 homestays have been registered while 50 more are under process. CEO said that several developmental works were taken up for the beautification of the Manasbal area. Manasbal Tourist Resort with its ideal setting, having a lake in between surrounded by mountain slopes, provides ample opportunities for those in search of adventure tourism like Water Skiing, Parasailing, Kayaking, Jet Skiing, Paragliding, Canoeing, Angling etc. Infrastructure in the form of an aquatic sports centre exists on the bank of the Lake which acts as a centre place for such activities.
CEO WMDA said that water skiing had commenced just a year ago as a collaborative effort between IISM and (WMDA). He said that the previous year witnessed the training of 60 participants in two batches, including trainees from various states across the country.
“This year, the goal was to elevate the standard by training 75 participants in three batches, each spanning 10 days”, he said. He further added that the vision for the future includes engaging an even larger number of young enthusiasts, thereby continuing to boost tourism in the enchanting realm of Manasbal.
With each passing year, water skiing promises to transform Manasbal Lake into a prominent hub for adventure tourism, offering a unique and thrilling experience to all who seek it. He further said that with the support of organisations like IISM and WMDA, Manasbal Lake is poised to become a premier destination for water skiing, offering a unique blend of adventure and natural beauty.

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