Syed Junaid Altaf, MD, Empyrean Skyview Projects, opines that Patnitop is going to emerge as the most happening tourism destination in the country in the next few years. Excerpts from interview:
How has this region, in UT J&K and Patnitop in particular, grown as a leisure destination over the past two years? How has it been for Skyview by Empyrean so far?
Whilst the entire nation was shaken with the covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 followed by the lethal second wave in 2021, Patnitop and Skyview by Empyrean also felt the fluctuations hitting tourism for the second time.
Now, as the Covid situation seems to have somewhat normalized with infections down to less than 2% of the peak — the highest daily average reported in May this year and citizens getting vaccinated, people are heading out, we are expecting a local tourism boom.
The local and national movement in the UT of Jammu & Kashmir has seen a growth chart in the last six months. Flights to Jammu from metropolitan cities have increased as well as flights from major cities have resumed.
Railways are also playing a big role in increasing numbers to Katra. On the local movement, Patnitop has seen the highest hotel occupancy in the month of July over the last few years. We have seen footfalls increasing substantially in the last three months and we are hoping to touch 400 guests per day by the year's end.
Skyview by Empyrean offers adventure activities like Zigzag Zipline and Magic Carpet and hiking & mountain biking. We have recently introduced Skyview World, Sanget Valley for those who want to stay longer with us.
Skyview by Empyrean has also been certified by SGS on COVID-19 compliance and we take every necessary step to ensure our guests are in a safe and sanitized environment. We are expecting a good response at Skyview by Empyrean in the coming months.
Do you plan to tap the religious tourists to your destination for leisure? What is your strategy?
Yes, of course, pilgrims to Katra are a major source of our business. Post Covid, religious tourism in Katra has seen week on week growth and is now receiving over 15,000 pilgrims daily, during Navratras this year.
We have opened a sales office in Katra to tap the market and our sales team is working with tour operators and hotels to promote Skyview by Empyrean.
We would like to be the pivot and create a religious circuit in and around Patnitop for guests to visit ancient temples such as Naag Mandir in Padora Chowk, Sudh Mahadev, Shiv Khori and also the Krimchi Temples close to Udhampur.
With domestic tourism opening full-fledged, will your main target segment be domestic or are you also focusing on inbound, if so, which would be the source markets?
Now, we are focusing largely on the domestic market; as international travel opens, we shall target inbound tourists, especially those markets such as US, UK, Europe, and the Middle East.
Do you see demand for luxury tourism in Patnitop?
We did see a huge potential in this area when we set up this project as it is less explored, but it requires better facilities and infrastructure. We have started the ball rolling with our luxury resort having a private Gondola. The market will soon have leading Indian and International chains coming in with upmarket accommodation and services as we have seen happening in Katra. We would like to be the central asset in Patnitop and we believe, the most happening tourism destination in the country in the next few years.
You have launched luxury accommodation at Patnitop, how has been the occupancy and ARRs for the property? Do you plan to expand further?
We have had an overwhelming response to our luxury stays since we opened a few weeks ago. The resort since launch has experienced almost 100% occupancy on weekends and we are confident that we shall command an average rate of Rs 10,000 by the end of this financial year, ending March 2022.