Hotels booked to the brim following tourist influx in G-B

Opening of Babusar Road, pleasant weather, better security boosts tourism industry

Shabbir Mir July 09, 2016
Compared to last year when 0.5 million tourists had flocked G-B, the region will most likely see the numbers doubled. PHOTO: FILE

GILGIT: A plethora of colourful camps of all sizes inundated valleys like Hunza, Nagar, Astore, Ghizer and Baltistan in Gilgit-Baltistan as students and families visiting the region set their tents in hotel lawns and other open places.

Pleasant weather, better security and improved infrastructure, particularly road services, have resulted in tourism bonanza for Gilgit-Baltistan. Thousands of tourists flocked to the region to escape the sizzling heat from the plains and enjoy the breathtaking view of the valleys, plateaus and rivers that cover G-B.

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However, the sudden increase and boost in the industry has resulted in shortage of accommodation as most hotels in the region are brimming with full capacity.

The influx was triggered by the opening of Babusar Road that links G-B to scenic Naran and Kaghan valleys – destinations that received record breaking number of tourists this week.

The downside

“I saw people spending nights in their cars,” Waseem Ahmed, a student who arrived in Gilgit along with his friends to spend Eid Holidays, told The Express Tribune.

He added, “We combed the city for accommodation but failed as hotel managers apologised and were unable to give us rooms due to the vast number of tourists.”

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Shahab, a hotel manager, said, “The sudden and increased flow of tourists has meant that all rooms in my hotel are almost full all the time.”

The manager also said they only give rooms to people who reserve them in advance but if guests arrive late at night, they are offered accommodation if rooms are vacant. “We offer rooms to people who come late at the same rates if they are available,” he said.

Reaching potential

While nearly all valleys in G-B have been filled with camps and tents, Deosai plains stand out.

According to Farooq Ahmed, an official of information department, tourists from Punjab and other parts of the country have thronged the lush green plateau that is located in the middle of Skardu and Astor valleys.

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“You will see tourist camps everywhere in Deosai,” Khan, who also visited the area told The Express Tribune. “The overwhelming majority of people visiting are from within the country but there are foreigners too,” he added.

A majority of tourists are Pakistanis because people are seeking refuge from the scorching heat in plain areas in the cool atmosphere of the mountains.

There was no proper record keeping of how many tourists visited G-B following Eid this season, however people belonging to hotel and transport industry state the number is in thousands.

Compared to last year when 0.5 million tourists had flocked G-B, the region will most likely see the numbers doubled. The government is expecting at least 1 million tourists in the region. The desire has been expressed repeatedly by Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman in the recent past.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2016.


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