Times News Network NEW DELHI, Apr 15, 2006: Mughal emperor Jehangir’s favourite haunt and India’s most-loved ski destination is up for lease. And it will cost nothing less than a king’s ransom — Rs 20,000 crore.
The Jammu and Kashmir tourism department has decided to hand over the Gulmarg Ski Resort to a private operator for 99 years. This is the first time the department will allow a private investor to run one of its premier tourist destinations.
Sources said the decision was taken after the department was flooded with offers from international firms, especially from Germany and France, to take over the ski resort. The department will hire a consultant over the next two months to settle the deal.
According to J&K’s director-general of tourism Salim Baig, the government will not interfere in the running and development of the resort by the private owner but will only play a regulatory role to ensure all forest and environment laws and safety regulations are followed.
“We have decided to privatise the entire 6 sq km of Gulmarg ski resort. German and French companies have already shown interest in taking it over. We expect to get over Rs 20,000 crore from the deal. What’s best, the entire land is owned by the state government and there are no private properties that have to be auctioned. At present, hotels in Gulmarg have 1,200 beds which can be increased by the private party in dialogue with the existing hotel owners,” Baig said.