Building A Holistic Hospitality Brand With Unique Customer Experience
Assurance of service and business of safety are the most critical aspects for tourism, says Syed Junaid Altaf, Managing Director, Empyrean Skyview Projects.
Following heavy snowfall, the tourist influx in Jammu and Kashmir has gradually witnessed an uptick after a low due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Empyrean Skyview Project is located at Patnitop in Jammu. It is a mountain adventure and lifestyle destination for the new age, responsible traveller, the first of its kind in the Himalayas. Set over 11 acres in a scenic countryside, comprising a ropeway (India’s Highest in terms of ground clearance-over 65 meters), adventure activities (such as zipline, magic carpet, tubing sledge onsite and other leisure activities such as trekking, biking, hiking, birding, offsite), a range of F&B offerings, as well as first class accommodation packages in collaboration with local hotels, for every taste and pocket.
Not only it has the added to the infrastructure but also transformed Patnitop into a new tourist destination with its state-of-art ropeway that connects Sanget Valley, an idyllic hamlet, where the lower terminal is situated, to Patnitop, the upper terminal, but by taking a lead in green mobility, it has also eliminated a 45-60 minute road journey by way of a picturesque gondola ride of over 2.8 kms of inclined destination in just 10-12 minutes.
Skyview Patnitop is open for tourists and is sure to drive tourism to this unexplored paradise with its clean air, unique landscape, flora and wildlife, biodiversity and timeless local culture and history.
To give us the perspective of the tourism industry of the valley, the challenges faced and some expansion plans, we spoke to Syed Junaid Altaf, Managing Director, Empyrean Skyview Projects.
How do you see the winter season contributing to the growth of sustainable tourism in Patnitop?
The global ropeway models are based on sustainability but the ropeway that you see in Patnitop is not only a reflection of sustainable tourism but it is our dedication to being responsible in tourism. In fact responsible & sustainable tourism has the larger theme and the ropeway built in Patnitop is the first ropeway in Asia without any trees being cut. Besides the ropeway itself, everything we have done in Skyview Patnitop has involved local safe usage of materials responsibly. Patnitop is a combination of man, infrastructure, perseverance with its underlying commitment to responsible tourism.
What are some of the big challenges facing the tourism sector in the UT of Jammu & Kashmir?
In 2019 with the political events that happened, tourism was jolted to a very large extent and for a project like ours, we were meant to inaugurate it at almost the same time. There was a sustained effect of that in the first few months. Since March 2020, Covid-19 has further dented tourism. The infrastructure that supports tourism is still evolving in the UT. There are challenges but we as entrepreneurs have signed up for it being in the tourism industry in Jammu & Kashmir. I hope that there is policy support to the tourism industry at the administration level in times to come. I look at these challenges more like opportunities.
The ecosystem of your project is still evolving. How do you plan to expand it to offer more services to make it a one stop destination?
The project in Patnitop offers us unprecedented opportunity to develop a global destination. It has been a fairly popular hill station for the last few decades. Certainly we are looking to expand our own product. The idea for us is to have an integrated mountain resort and offering true mobility to our customers, whether it is food and beverage or onsite and offsite adventure as well as accommodation. I also believe that with our coming in and setting shop at Patnitop a lot of global hotel chains will get attracted to the destination. There are almost 800 beds as on date and I truly believe that upgradation and further investment is something that is forthcoming. I think we are a catalyst to the destination that is growing and has multi-faceted opportunities for tourism.
It has been over a year since you started this project, what has been the response so far?
Even though it has been a year since we started but in terms of operating days, we are still about to cross a six-month milestone. Partially because of the pandemic we have been shut and then first few months after the political announcement in August 2019 we could not operate. In this short span, we have carried 27,000 passengers in the ropeway which tells us that there is tremendous appreciation for the product and that people are enjoying what they are seeing. I think that the development cycle is working for us and the ropeway is the central asset around which we can build multi-faceted offerings.
How do you plan to leverage the locational proximity that you have? What are the big bottlenecks and how do you want to address them?
In tourism, there are two things that are critical, one is the assurance of service and in the part that we are operating in – the business of safety. The way to attract people is to build, scale and market the plan internationally by pushing the credentials. Like I said we are less than 180 days in terms of operations and we have a long way to go and we intend to run a National Roadshow over the next year to actually market the product. The big bottleneck is the highway construction at the moment but that is transient and will settle down in the next few months.
What drives you to make these big bets?
I am a firm believer of perseverance and credit this project to the young team of people who built it and that is what drives me when I see young people coming on board and working 18 to 19 hours and working at a global level. The satisfaction of driving the young team keeps me charged.
What is your vision for the property for the next two years in terms of footfalls and revenues?
In terms of footfalls there is an unprecedented opportunity as it is also close to Vaishno Devi. However, that is not the only thing that we are planning to build the destination on. Holistically in the next 3 to 5 years we are looking at a close to five to seven hundred thousand passengers on the ropeway itself. We are looking to build a holistic hospitality brand with differentiated offerings, global partnerships and a unique experience for every customer.
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