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NEW DELHI : Hotels and resorts in the hills are reporting high demand as early as April and May—which aren’t typically considered holiday seasons—as the summer heat peaks in the plains.

Online tour operators like MakeMyTrip as well as Thomas Cook India say hill stations in the north are outperforming their southern counterparts with Kashmir, Leh, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand recording 45-50% more occupancy than in 2019. The ones in the south are growing at 25-30%. This is aided by the fact that the pandemic-induced lockdown and travel restrictions over the last two years have fuelled people’s appetite for travel bucket lists as well as non-standard stays.

The demand for one resort in Gulmarg has been robust with over 90% average occupancy. Vinit Chhabra, general manager, The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, Gulmarg said, “We have started April on a very positive note with such a strong average occupancy."

Online tour operator MakeMyTrip said for the company, destinations in Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Leh, Ladakh and Uttarakhand are doing between 45-50% better than 2019 in terms of occupancy. “We are already above April 2019 numbers for these locations. Most larger cities are doing 25-30% overall and in some cases even 45-50% better than the same period in 2019. Where we are still seeing demand build up is hills in the south. The major hill stations in areas like Coorg, Ooty, Lonavala are growing but around 25% over this time in 2019," said Abhishek Logani, chief business officer for hotels at MakeMyTrip.

The Kumaon, a luxury resort in Almora in Uttarakhand is seeing a higher occupancy as compared to 2019 and expects the coming months to see a further surge in travel demand.

Rajeev Kale, president & country head, holidays, MICE, Visa at Thomas Cook India said due to the strong pent-up travel demand coupled with an unprecedented heat wave, the company is seeing an increase in demand. As a result, the cost of accommodation in popular hill stations is ranging 30-40% higher as compared with pre-pandemic levels.

“We have pre-booked and purchased inventory at popular destinations like Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Leh-Ladakh, Sikkim and the North-East, keeping this demand in mind. This is helping us fulfil customer demands by offering them availability and special rates this season," he said. Lemon Tree Hotels has witnessed the fastest recovery in occupancy and average room rates in its leisure portfolios of locations like Srinagar, Corbett and Katra.

One luxury resort company in the south, The Tamara, saw a growth of 16% from 2019 to 2022 in its Kodaikanal property. But its Coorg property has seen a growth of over 55% from 2019 to 2022. “ It’s exciting to see our hill station properties, The Tamara Coorg and The Tamara Kodai, almost fully booked for summer. Both domestic and international travel opening up has encouraged travellers to their resort," said Shruti Shibulal, chief executive officer, Tamara Leisure Experiences.

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