Thousands of tourists visit the ski resort, Gulmarg for abundant snowfall but this winter there was a surprise awaiting them — a glass igloo. “It’s a completely different experience. I am feeling very good, and it’s a really fantastic experience to sit and have food inside an igloo,” Kabir, a tourist from Delhi told PTI. Kabir is all praises for the hotel staff and the creator of the glass igloo concept as he feels that it brought him closer to nature.
“The ambience is nice and every cuisine is available, whether it be Indian, Chinese, or Continental,” he added. For Neha Kohli, another tourist from Delhi, it was a dream experience as she said she had seen such things only in books and movies. “I never thought whatever we saw in books, we will actually sit inside an igloo and have food one day,” Kohli said. However, for Syed Waseem — the brain behind the concept, it took three years of research and development to bring this experience to tourists visiting Gulmarg.
“I travel around a lot. During one such trip to Finland, I saw people who come to see Northern Lights, and stay in these glass igloos. I was fascinated with the thought of bringing this concept to Kashmir,” said Waseem, a hotelier by profession.He said enquiries about the glass igloo led him to Austria, where these are manufactured.
A team from the company manufacturing these igloos in Austria visited Kashmir last year to study the weather and climate in Gulmarg for ensuring the product is made to specifications that can last over a period of time. “The fabricators needed data like temperature, wind speeds and sunlight intensity. After obtaining all this, they developed an ideal structure for this place,” he said.
For the past two years, Waseem said he had constructed snow igloos outside his hotel in Gulmarg that had caught the imagination of the tourists but due to insufficient snowfall this winter, the natural igloos could not be made.”If you want tourists to come back again and again, you have to add new attractions for them. These igloos have done that work for us. Otherwise, it snows in Himachal and Uttarakhand also,” he said.
Waseem said he brought six glass igloos which cost him around Rs 50 lakhs. However, he is happy with the investment.He has placed three igloos on the lawns of his hotel in Gulmarg and the other three in the compound of his restaurant that he runs at Kongdoori, the first halt for the famed Gondola Cable Car.
“The response of the tourists is tremendous. In fact, I have had queries from some fellow hoteliers here … I think this is going to catch up in a big way,” he added. As of now, the glass igloos are used as restaurants only but the man behind the concept feels it can change the tourism landscape of Kashmir. “There are many tourist destinations in Kashmir where conventional constructions are not feasible due to fragile ecology. If the Government extends a helping hand by providing land on lease, these igloos can be used as night stay facilities at such places,” he added.
Shoaib Ahmad, a travel agent, said the igloos can be exploited commercially for most of the year in Kashmir as the weather can change very quickly. “There is hardly an extended dry period in Kashmir’s tourist resorts. It can be sunny one moment and raining cats and dogs the next. The visitors won’t have to worry. They can enjoy the sunshine or just sip some warm drink without getting wet, inside the igloo, ” Ahmad said