Tourism revives as up to 700,000 visit GB in three months
ISLAMABAD: Tourism has returned in the scenic Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) area where up to 700,000 local and foreign tourists thronged during the ongoing summer season to enjoy its mesmerising weather and eye-catching mountainous terrain.
Gilgit-Baltistan’s Minister for Tourism, Sports, Culture, Archeology, and Youth Affairs Raja Nasir Ali Khan told APP on Monday that the significant surge in tourists’ footfall in Gilgit-Baltistan had helped the sector revive, which was affected last year due to the coronavirus-related travel curbs.
The statistics shared by the minister were of the last three months, as tourism season started this year after Eid-ul-Fitr when the restrictions on the sector were lifted, provided that the anti-coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs) would be observed in letter and spirit at all tourist destinations.
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has recently declared vaccination certificates mandatory for hotel bookings for tourists visiting Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
“We are allowing any tourist to GB and there is no plan for imposing a ban on tourism,” Nasir said, adding that implementation of anti-coronavirus SOPs in the area was being ensured to keep the virus at bay.
The Gilgit-Baltistan government, in collaboration with the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), was taking multiple initiatives to boost tourism by improving air access to the area.
The minister said the PIA was carrying four to five flights from various cities to Gilgit-Baltistan every week, adding that negotiations were underway with Nepal and the Gulf countries to start one international flight to the area as an experiment.
The short-term strategy was opted to improve infrastructure in the area, he said, citing homestay financing as an example to meet the accommodation needs of tourists and empower locals through soft loans.
The road infrastructure was being upgraded, he said, adding that incomplete road projects left by the previous government were being completed on war-footing to improve tourists’ access to the new and unexplored tourism sites.
The Gilgit-Baltistan government’s main focus was to promote the valley as winter sports and adventure tourism destinations by arranging festivals and competitions, he added.
An ice hockey tournament, skating and skiing competitions, and the K2 winter summit arranged last year got overwhelming response from the local and foreign tourists, the minister said, adding that around 40 per cent of adventure tourist groups had cancelled their tour due to the pandemic.
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