This year, no adventures for Pakistan's mountaineering industry
Hundreds associated with the field struggle as climbers remain absent amidst pandemic
ISLAMABAD: Home to five of the world’s 14 tallest mountains, every year Pakistan entices hundreds of trekkers and mountaineers from near and far, who wish to summit its dangerous peaks. Usually, the months from June to August, being prime mountaineering season in South Asia, are the busiest for mountaineering-related activities in the country.
The season, which attracts mountain climbers from all parts of the world, creates a hoard of opportunities for mountaineering-related businesses in the country and helps Pakistan generate over Rs4-5 million in lieu of taxes and fees every year. However, in times of Covid-19, when much of the world has closed its gates to travel and tourism, many people including local transporters, loaders, porters, mountaineering guides and fixers, who have been looking forward to yet another lucrative season, have gone without employment for over two months with no business in sight.
Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) President Abu Zafar Sadiq said the impact of the pandemic has been devastating for all businesses related to the sport. “Every year, the advent of foreign mountaineers would create profitable jobs for hundreds of locals in Gilgit Baltistan (GB), but now that there are no mountaineers left to cater to, these people have been left on their beam-ends. The government should consider adding them to its Ehsas relief program,” Sadiq told The Express Tribune. “Some 40 mountaineers arrived in Pakistan last year alone, and the country has been organising the sport for over 60 years and has generated millions in revenue from it. We have hosted some of the world’s greatest mountaineers and have also produced our own legends like Nazir Sabir. But now that industry has been met with difficult circumstances in the wake of Covid-19, the government should play its part in getting it back on its feet and helping those affected by the losses,” he added.
SOPs made to relax tourism restrictions amidst the pandemic
On the other hand, according to Prime Minister Imran Khan, the tourism industry employs many people in Gilgit Baltistan, who are severely affected by the lockdown. “We are planning to open the tourism sector,” the Premier announced on Monday, following a meeting of the National Coordination Committee. “There are many parts of the country which can only be toured during the summer months. If we continue to impose the lockdown, a lot of locals in those areas who depend on tourism will be left starving,” he argued.
In addition to that, The National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) has also forwarded a draft of SOPs to the Minister of Inter-Provincial Coordination in a bid to revive the country’s tourism industry.
As per the draft, tour operator companies will be enforcing regulations pertaining to their clients, screenings will be conducted at all entry points and everyone will be required to wear face masks, gloves and hand sanitizers. Furthermore, clients will be required to take an oath to comply with all SOPs and in the case that a client/tourist does not comply, they will be quarantined as per requirement.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2020.