Tourism diaries: From packed guest houses to empty chairlift

Delayed summer season and imminent Ramazan keeping business at bay: hotel owners۔

Muhammad Sadaqat July 08, 2012

ABBOTABAD: With the rising mercury, tourists have poured in at the summer resorts of Nathiagali, raising the occupancy ratio to nearly full capacity. Like the previous years, people from all income groups are enjoying the serene ambience and picturesque view of the valley.

“We’ve been here for the last two weeks,” said Sajawal Butt a Lahore-based businessman, adding that it had become unbearable for his children to pass hot days with frequent power outages and the rising mercury back home.

Shumaila Kanwal, a college professor said that her husband, a civil servant had booked a room for their family of four, where they were enjoying the beauty of the Nathiagali.

With the overwhelming influx of visitors, guest houses and even small eateries are cashing in on the opportunity to make quick profits. Hotels have upped their rates for two reasons: firstly, Ramazan is round the corner and the tourists are expected to leave the valley at least a week in advance of the holy month. Secondly, the hoteliers are facing a financial crunch, owing to the late start of the season. “How can I pay salaries to my staff, pay utility bills? Prices have soared and the peak season has been delayed and is expected to last till the 15th or 18th of the month,” said Sardar Waheed, the owner of a guest house. He added that a typical tourism lasts a good 50 days-running from the end of April till the middle of June. However, the season has been cut short to about 25 to 17 days, owning to a late summer and an early Ramazan.

In similar fashion, higher-end hotels previously offering double bedroom suites for Rs4,000 to Rs6,000 are now charging Rs8,000 to Rs15,000 per night stay. Meanwhile, middle-range guest houses that earlier charged Rs8,000 to Rs10,000 have all but doubled charges to Rs 12,000 to R18,000.

On the other hand, the tourism business has slowed down in Ayubia, following the suspension of the chairlift service, which was a key attraction. As a result, the occupancy at the hotels and guest houses has dropped by 20% to 30%, according to Jamil Abbasi, a hotelier. Due to the traffic mess, tourists and picnickers are finding it hard to walk on the roads amid long queues of vehicles.

There are two parking lots; one privately-owned and the other the property of Galiyat Development Authority. Unplanned and undisciplined parking was the chief cause of traffic problems, besides encroachment by roadside vendors.

“Despite having limited staff, I try to regulate the flow of traffic and impose heavy fines on violators,” said a traffic warden Mumtaz Khan.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2012.


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