Abbottabad hopes for bumper tourist season

Officials say the Bin Laden episode might not dampen the inflow of tourists.

Afp May 16, 2011


Hoteliers in Abbottabad are hoping that Osama bin Laden’s killing does not affect tourism in the city.

Officials say the Bin Laden episode might not dampen the inflow of tourists, since the peace of the city was barely disturbed and business has continued as usual. Indeed, said one, it might even be a bonus.

“I believe that tourism will not be impacted – rather, more people are coming to see the place where the incident happened,” provincial secretary for tourism and culture Azam Khan told AFP. “Abbottabad is a normal, peaceful city today as it was before.”

Hoteliers were upbeat, saying prospects for this summer were good. “Praise be to God, we are doing good business and expect a full season,” Hummayun Khan, manager of the Alpine hotel, told AFP.

“I don’t think the recent incident will have a negative impact, because the city is still normal and peaceful and people are doing business without any fear,” he said.

Jibran Mirza, a manager at Gilani’s guest house, said some people may this year prefer to go to Murree, another resort town north of Islamabad, but he did “not see any downslide” in business. “Murree is overcrowded, so families prefer Abbottabad,” he added.

Locals suspect that the comings and goings of tourists and migrants are exactly what enabled Bin Laden to live there for so long undetected.

“It’s a quiet town and gateway to northern areas and Kashmir,” said another security official when asked why al Qaeda might have considered Abbottabad as a hiding place.

“The transit nature of the city and the fact that a lot of people come from other towns and cities to escape the summer heat for a few months allow all kinds of people to stay in the city and leave without any footprints,” he said.

Abbottabad is popular not just with visitors but with those looking to relocate. Its weather, peaceful reputation and the perceived security of a garrison have drawn many from other cities to work or educate their children.

However, District Police Chief Karim Khan said some militants might be hiding among the migrants, but claimed police had stepped up vigilance.

“About four months ago, we asked local property dealers to provide us details about the people renting houses in Abbottabad,” Khan told AFP.

Asked whether religious schools might provide haven for militants, he said: “The (intelligence) agencies are regularly monitoring the madrassas.”

District administration Chief Zaheerul Islam said Bin Laden might have considered Abbottabad a secure place to hide.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2011.


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