GILGIT: With the summer tourism season in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) just around the corner, hotel owners in the scenic Hunza Valley have urged tourists, especially the domestic kind, to “behave” while visiting the valley.
In this regard, hotel owners in Hunza have issued a code of conduct (CoC), especially for domestic tourists.
“The need for issuing a CoC arose following some incidents which, I should say, were in bad taste,” said Ali Madad on Sunday.
Madad is the president of the Hotel Owners Association in Hunza Valley.
The CoC comes just days before the tourist season starts in a region where, according to government, at least a million domestic tourists visited last year.
“There were some incidents last year when youngsters made ‘indecent demands’,” Madad told The Express Tribune, adding angrily that they were not running brothels in the valley.
“Due to such demands, some untoward incidents did take place in the hotels unfortunately,” he added
Domestic tourism has started to flourish in G-B in recent years after the Kaghan-Babusar road was improved and opened for traffic during the summer. It came at a time when international tourism in the region suffered after gunmen dressed as paramilitary personnel killed nine foreign tourists in an unprecedented attack at the base camp of Nanga Parbat in 2013. However, foreigners have started to return since.
According to the CoC, tourists have been asked to avoid indulging in debates over religion and sects, respecting religious spaces, local culture and values.
In addition, the tourists were asked to refrain from consuming alcohol in the valley since it is banned in the country.
“It is also expected you do not ask the hotel management for alcohol and other things,” reads the code which was drafted after reaching consensus during a recent meeting of hotel managers and owners in Hunza Valley.
Domestic tourists have also been asked not to photograph individuals without first seeking their permission since it was against local traditions and values. Moreover, tourists were asked not to enter residential areas which disturb the routine life of locals.
“The tourists are our guests and certainly they are a source of income for the locals but that shouldn’t come at the price of destroying our local culture and tradition.”
Unlike other tourist destinations, Hunza, particularly the main town of Karimabad, is a congested town. Most of the tourist attractions in the town, the biggest of which is the 800-year-old Baltit Fort, can only be accessed by traversing through the entire town.
Unbeknownst to most tourists, after dusk, the locals come out to celebrate life as a normal neighbourhood. They thus consider the presence of tourists around that time an intrusion into their private space.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2017.