Skyview By Empyrean in Patnitop, Jammu and Kashmir, has been certified as the number one sustainable tourism destination in India by the Responsible Tourism Society of India [RTSOI]the national responsible tourism body that promotes sustainable and responsible tourism practices within the tourism industry. He was also conferred as a “Champion” – a status which is granted for a score over 90 for following sustainable and environmentally friendly tourism practices.
The Sustainable Tourism Destination certification is granted exclusively to those who have met India’s sustainable tourism criteria set for travel destinations. This means that Skyview by Empyrean complies with the parameters of sustainable and responsible tourism as practiced by RTSOI and set as a standard by the Department of Tourism, Government of India (GoI). These include sustainability management, socio-economic sustainability, cultural sustainability, and environmental sustainability.
The destination is about 100 kilometers from Jammu airport. Patnitop is a small hilltop town in the Udhampur district of Jammu. Located atop a charming plateau in the Shivalik belt, it rests at an altitude of 2,024 meters. According to folklore, Patnitop is a distortion of ‘Patan Da Talab’, which loosely translates to ‘Pond of the Princess’.
Visitors can experience a gondola ride, a range of dining offerings, luxury stays, shopping as well as a host of soft adventure activities, many of which were first introduced in India, such as the magic carpet, an all-weather dry tube sled, Asia’s longest zigzag zip line at 580 meters, organized bike tours, supervised hikes and treks.
A subsidiary of FIL Industries Limited, Empyrean focuses on the development of mountain tourism, adventure activities and public infrastructure. Touted as the biggest tourism project in Jammu and Kashmir, Skyview Patnitop is credited with setting up India’s tallest cable car. It is a two-hour drive from Jammu, passing through four spectacular tunnels, and only three kilometers from the Chenani Nashri tunnel.
Located just 90 minutes drive from Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine in Katra, and spread over 22 acres, Skyview began operations three years ago with the successful launch of the Skyview Gondola – India’s tallest [in terms of ground clearance] sustainable, world-class cable car, which has propelled the picturesque resort town of Patnitop into the tourist limelight. It was the first step towards sustainability as it cut a 30-45 minute / 26 km road journey to just 10-12 minutes, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, encouraging travelers to reduce their carbon footprint and enjoy a shorter, cleaner getaway to Patnitop. It is the first gondola in Asia where not a single tree was felled along the gondola line during the construction of the project, making it an environmentally friendly construction.
Besides the gondola itself, everything about the property, from the responsible sourcing of materials, to the incorporation of local traditions and styles in construction, to the use of local craftsmen, landscaping with flora and native wildlife, architectural design favoring rainwater harvesting for recycling and reuse thus reducing the load on natural resources and groundwater with the use of biodegradable cutlery and digitized menus; sustainability was at the heart of the project.
Added to this are the efforts made for community development in harmony with sustainable mobility supporting regional economic growth, as well as the development of safe, livable and attractive places for all, promoting collective economic development. Here, the cable car has contributed to the infrastructure, thereby benefiting the local community – providing jobs for locals during construction and now on site; the supply of fresh produce from neighboring villages provides an economic advantage for local farmers and a saving in food miles; and last but not least – to make Patnitop a more attractive tourist destination, thereby benefiting travel ancillary businesses – hotels, restaurants, guides and local carriers.
Commenting on the certification, Syed Junaid Altaf, Managing Director, Empyrean Skyview Projects Private Limited said, “As humanity faces many environmental challenges, promoting sustainable development and tourism is the right way forward. Over the next three years, we envision nearly 700,000 passengers on the gondola itself, which will help reduce the carbon footprint as more people use it as a mode of transport instead of driving by road. Community development is an integral part of our future plans; it is part of a sustainable mobility that effectively supports regional economic growth, as well as the development of safe, habitable and attractive places for all. We are also working to build a sustainable and holistic hotel brand with differentiated offerings, global partnerships and a unique experience for every guest. »
Speaking on the awarding of RTSOI certification, Rakesh Mathur, Founding Member and Honorable. The President, RTSOI, said“It is with great pride that the very first ecotourism destination to be certified by RTSOI has become a ‘Champion’ practitioner of sustainability. Skyview by Empyrean, nestled in the scenic Sanget Valley near Jammu, is also the first ever ecotourism destination to offer a cable car experience in Patnitop, in addition to games and entertainment for all ages, global cuisine and excellent luxury accommodation.