The Khyber embodies the magnificence of Gulmarg

The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa is spread across seven acres of a sylvan coniferous forest, 8,825 feet above sea level in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas. Its plush interiors, fine cuisine, and restorative treatments, hold all promises to pamper guests. In an interview, Umar Tramboo, Managing Director, Pinnacle Resorts Pvt. Ltd, promoter of The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, Gulmarg shares more.

2020 has been a challenging year for the hospitality industry to say the least. In hindsight, what is your take?

2020 has been the worst year for the hospitality industry, at least in our lifetime. Never have we seen the whole world come to a grinding halt. In March, hotels were forced to shut down for four months across the country. Kashmir was already dealing with low occupancies, even before the pandemic, due to the political lockdown since August 2019 and the Pulwama incident before that.  This situation has definitely pushed us into a long and painful path of recovery.  

What has the revival been like for The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, Gulmarg? Kindly support the revert with average group Occupancies and ARRs.   When did you restart operations?

We reopened and started our operations in September 2020. Since then, the hotel has gradually picked up occupancy and we are looking at an exciting December 2020 as well as the upcoming skiing season that will last till March 2021. Occupancies and Average Daily Rate (ADR) has been improving on a month-on-month basis; September 2020: 2 per cent @ ADR of Rs, 12900, October 2020:  12 per cent @ ADR of Rs. 10000, November 2020: 40 per cent @ ADR of Rs. 11000 and December (BOB): 80 per cent @ ADR of Rs. 16000.            

What are the trends that you are noticing among travellers in the revival stage?

People have got really bored stuck at home and are looking at every opportunity to take a break. We have seen a dramatic rise since November, and it seems guests have realised that they cannot put life on hold due to COVID-19. Taking all precautions, they are looking at travelling within India as overseas travel is still not open and to destinations which are easily accessible by short flights or motoring holidays, as well as to hotels which are hygienic with well laid down sanitation protocols. The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, located in Gulmarg, a winter wonderland covered with pristine snow, is a great attraction and the preferred destination. We are flooded with queries every day regarding availability.

What kind of niche travel experiences and adventure activities can guests look forward to in your hotel?

The Khyber truly embodies the magnificence of Gulmarg. Guests can enjoy a host of activities such as ATV rides, mountain biking, gondola rides, horse riding, rock climbing, trout fishing, photography safaris and jeep excursions throughout spring and summer. For the adventurous, the most exhilarating is the hike to the frozen Alpather Lake, at the base of the Apharwat peak at 4200m, for once you get there, it is a sight to behold! 

Come winter, Gulmarg’s snow scaped vista lends a fairytale air to the entire area. For many, the sight of the first snowfall gives a feeling of excitement like no other. The unique, backcountry skiing slopes add to its attraction and of course staying at The Khyber, located right next to the ski lift is an added advantage. Winter activities include skiing, heli-skiing, ice-skating, snowboarding, snow mobile rides, sledging, etc. And if you aren’t feeling adventurous, just sit back, enjoy a warm cup of kahwa, and read your favourite book while it snows in the background or opt for a relaxing spa treatment or a dip in the all-weather indoor pool.

We have a year-round ‘Activities Concierge’ who helps guests plan these exciting outdoor activities as well as those offered at the resort, such as films at The Den our mini cinema, the Igloo play area for younger children and billiards & snooker to name a few which are also very popular with our guests  

What will be high on the agenda for The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, Gulmarg in 2021? What kind of developments & challenges are you expecting in 2021? 

We wish to promote The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, Gulmarg as an Uber Luxury destination Ski Resort where stringent safety and sanitation protocols for our guests and employees are our top priority. We hope 2021 brings in a glimmer of hope in terms of Covid-19 vaccination and ushers in normalcy which will instill confidence in travellers to travel without any fear.

Currently how is tourism faring in the state of Jammu and Kashmir? Any policy changes that you would like the government to go ahead with, specially to promote hospitality and tourism?

Tourism is seeing a gradual growth as seen by the number of travellers now visiting Kashmir. We wish the Government would accord Industry status to Hotels and roll back GST which has been a big dampener on tourism since its implementation. Also, their support in promoting tourism at all available channels would be of immense help.

In the revival scenario, what is paramount, room rates, bottom lines, or occupancies?   Kindly explain.

Naturally, bottom lines are extremely important as they are directly linked to occupancies in the hotel. We have taken a very pragmatic approach to our pricing to ensure that we make Kashmir an exciting and affordable destination for our guests. .

What do you feel can be done to grow the brand ‘Incredible India’ especially post Covid-19?        

A heavenly experience in “Paradise on Earth” could be promoted by the State Department of Tourism as well as the Ministry of Tourism under their special program across social media, audio/visual media, A special sanction of LTC to Government employees to visit Kashmir will boost domestic tourism and also develop integration. 

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BOUNCING BACK - FROM SURVIVAL TO REVIVAL ISSUE VOL 6, ISSUE 6'

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