GILGIT: Travel agents and tour operators are hopeful that Gilgit-Baltistan’s ailing tourism industry will get a much needed boost after the United Kingdom lifted its advisory against travelling to the scenic region.
The UK foreign office had advised against travelling to Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) after a group of foreign mountaineers were massacred at Nanga Parbat basecamp in 2013.
“I’m sure this decision will revive the ailing tourism industry,” Nasir Hussain, a tour operator said on Tuesday. “Travel advisories by Britain are usually what other European countries follow,” Hussain told
The G-B government, as part of a tourist security plan, recently formed a special high-altitude unit consisting of 50 policemen who will be trained and equipped with special gear to work in the harsh terrain of Gilgit-Baltistan. Apart from Nanga Parbat, the region is also home to the mighty K-2; the world’s second highest mountain.
Hussain appreciated the security steps taken by the government so far, but stressed there is more that needs to be done. “It will be ideal if tourists groups coming to G-B are escorted along Karakoram Highway,” he said. “It will give foreigners a sense of security,” added Hussain.
In the wake of the devastating attack on the foreign climbers, tourists avoided Pakistan because of the perceived danger. Revenue generated from the tourism sector reportedly dropped by more than 50% in G-B where approximately 10,000 families were directly or indirectly dependent on tourism for their income.
According to tour operators, around 15,000 to 20,000 tourists, including mountaineers, visit Pakistan each year during the summer season with each spending over $5,000.
Hussain said the influx of tourists will boost the business of the hotel owners, transporters, handicrafts, the cottage industry and entrepreneurs.
G-B Home Secretary Sibtain Ahmed told he was yet to receive any notification on the easing of the advisory, adding some tourists with no objection certificates from the Ministry of Interior visited the region recently. According to The Telegraph on April 15, the UK Foreign Office lifted advice against travelling to G-B. -