BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
GILGIT: Parks, mosques and playgrounds are where the tourists are sprawling in Gilgit – Baltistan these days as hotels are full to capacity owing to unprecedented influx of national tourists.
Though there are no official figures, hotel owners say large numbers of domestic tourists are visiting in unprecedented numbers, heading north to escape the sizzling heat of summer in rest of the country.
“There is unexpected rush of tourists this year and we don’t have vacant rooms this week,” said a manager of a hotel located in the heart of Gilgit town.
After a slump in foreign visitors, triggered by a deadly attack at Nanga Parbat that killed 10 foreign mountaineers, a new wave of local sightseers has saved tourism in the scenic G-B, home to world second highest peak –K2.
“The weather is pleasant and we are enjoying it a lot,” said a tourists haling from Lahore.
The main hotels including Park Hotel, Jamal Hotel, Rupal Inn, Madina gest house and Shaheen Hotel had already rooms reserved, with visitors finding no option but to make their own arrangements. And then seeking help from the local friends was the sole option.
“I saw over a dozen families in City Park,” Habib Khan, a resident of Gilgit said on Monday. “They didn’t have camps but had small mattresses to lie upon and spend the night.”
As tourists found no space in hotels, some sought shelter at a mosque in Gilgit town’s Nagral area while some others spent their night at a mosque in Sonikote area.
“The tourists are our guest and we are supposed to him them out if in distress,” said another resident Imtiaz Sultan. “And their stay in mosques was just another thing in that regard.”
It wasn’t the last thing to offer to tourists, the locals of Gilgit city also offered residence at their homes.
According to a tourist guide Hidayat Ullah, most of the tourist are local Pakistanis are can be categorized as sightseers. “They come with their children and spend some time seeing the beauty of this mountainous region.”
He said international tourism once shaped tourism in G-B but it slowed down after 9/11 and then the killing of 10 foreign climbers at the base camp of Nanga Parbat mountain in 2013.
“In their place have come visitors from Punjab, Karachi and Peshawar, thanks mainly to a peaceful atmosphere in the country and especially in G-B.”