Syed Junaid Altaf, MD, Empyrean Skyview Projects, believes Patnitop will become the country’s hottest tourist destination over the next few years. Interview extracts:
How has this region, in UT J&K and Patnitop in particular, developed as a leisure destination over the past two years? How has it been for Skyview by Empyrean so far?
As the entire nation was rocked by the covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, followed by the second deadly wave in 2021, Patnitop and Skyview by Empyrean also felt the fluctuations that hit tourism for the second time.
Now, as the Covid situation appears to have normalized somewhat with infections down to less than 2% of peak – the highest daily average reported in May of this year and citizens getting vaccinated, people are leaving , we expect a local tourism boom.
The local and national movement in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir has grown over the past six months. Flights to Jammu from metropolitan cities have increased as well as flights from major cities have resumed.
Railways also play an important role in increasing the number of people going to Katra. On the local movement, Patnitop experienced the highest hotel occupancy rate in July in recent years. We have seen attendance increase dramatically over the past three months and hope to reach 400 guests per day by the end of the year.
Skyview by Empyrean offers adventure activities like zigzag zipline and magic carpet, as well as hiking and mountain biking. We recently introduced Skyview World, Sanget Valley for those who wish to stay with us longer.
Skyview by Empyrean has also been certified by SGS on COVID-19 compliance and we take all necessary measures to ensure that our customers are in a safe and sanitized environment. We expect a good response from Skyview by Empyrean in the coming months.
Are you planning to bring religious tourists to your destination for recreation? What is your strategy?
Yes, of course, the pilgrims in Katra are a major source of our activity. After Covid, religious tourism in Katra has grown from week to week and now welcomes more than 15,000 pilgrims per day, 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 hub and create a religious circuit in and around Patnitop for the guests to visit ancient temples such as Naag Mandir in Padora Chowk, Sudh Mahadev, Shiv Khori and also the temples of Krimchi near Udhampur.
With the full opening of domestic tourism, will your main target segment be national or are you also focusing on arrival, if so what would be the source markets?
Now we are largely focusing on the domestic market; As international travel opens up, we will target inbound tourists, especially markets such as the US, UK, Europe and the Middle East.
Do you see a demand for luxury tourism in Patnitop?
We saw huge potential in this area when we set up this project as it is less explored, but it requires better facilities and infrastructure. We started the ball rolling with our luxury resort with a private gondola. The market will soon be home to big Indian and international chains offering upscale accommodations and services as we’ve seen happen in Katra. We would like to be Patnitop’s central asset and, in our opinion, the country’s hottest tourist destination for the next few years.
You started luxury accommodation in Patnitop, how was the occupancy and ARRs for the property? Do you plan to develop yourself further?
We have had an overwhelming response to our luxury stays since our opening a few weeks ago. Since its launch, the complex has experienced almost 100% occupancy at weekends and we are confident that we will have an average rate of Rs 10,000 by the end of this fiscal year, ending in March 2022.