Nanga Parbat blowback: Govt support can help revive tourism, says tour operators

Say industry can be saved by building tourists’ confidence through written assurances of security.

Peer Muhammad/shabbir Mir June 30, 2013
Say industry can be saved by building tourists’ confidence through written assurances of security. PHOTO: FACEBOOK.COM/HUNZAGUIDESPAKISTAN


Despite the recent tragedy at the foot of Nanga Parbat, tour operators believe foreign trekkers are still willing to visit Gilgit-Baltistan, provided the government guarantees their foolproof security.

“In the wake of the incident, tourists are generally reluctant to turn to Pakistan as they don’t believe in what we say. But there are still some who want to ‘take the risk’ of coming over to the G-B as trekking itself involves risk,” said Nasir Hussain, a tour operator.

“But prior to making any such expedition, they want written assurances from the government,” he told The Express Tribune on Saturday adding that tour operators could not  provide such a guarantee on our own.

“Due to the tragedy I have lost at least eight expedition groups  - which mean about 50 tourists from Ukraine, Germany, Holland,” said Hussain who runs his own company by the name of ‘Karakorum Explorers’ in Islamabad.

Before the Nanga Parbat episode, the 9/11 had struck a blow against Pakistani tourism. “Before September 11 we used to receive more than 300 trekkers annually. This number dropped to about 60 to 70 trekkers a year after the fall of twin towers,” says Hussain, who originally belongs to Gilgit-Baltistan’s scenic Hunza Valley, where the world’s three mightiest mountain ranges - the Karakoram, the Hindukush and the Himalayas – meet.

Hussain believes Pakistan can still make a solid comeback provided it takes on terrorism effectively. “We have many problems but we should be hopeful for a better future,” he adds.

Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Mehdi Shah said the tourists in Pakistan would be provided full security. “Each tourist in the G-B will be looked after properly,” said Shah when asked for a written surety for foreigners. “We have set up information centres in Gilgit, Skardu and elsewhere to keep tourists’ information updated,” he added.

Another leading tour operator Naiknam Karim who runs ‘Adventure Tour Pakistan’ complained that the conveyance system from Rawalpindi to Gilgit via Karakoram Highway (KKH) not only created problems for the passengers including the foreigners, but also had security loopholes.

“I think security agencies should establish additional security check posts with increased mobile vans at the key areas where tourists are believed to have presence,” he maintained. According to Karim, only 25% of their business was affected due to the incident which might have long-term implications if steps were not taken immediately.

Tour operators are also keen on setting up a central tourism board at the federal level in line with Nepal to facilitate the foreign tourists and other international organisations, interested in making tourism related agreements with the country.

“There is no defined centralised tourism department in Pakistan after devolution of the federal tourism ministry to the provinces under the 18th Amendment,” said Naiknam Karim. Any international agency cannot make tourism related agreements with all the provinces separately and this was the reason why international agencies were a bit confused in this regard, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2013.


repeter | 11 years ago | Reply

Really - the answer lies in dealing with the root cause of the problem - the war between Sunni fundamentalists and the rest of the world - and good luck with that!

I am afraid that more poorly trained soldiers standing around is not going to make me feel any safer in visiting Pakistan. I feel bad for the good people whose lives are being ruined by fanatics - but there are many other places in the world that beckon.

Gp65 | 11 years ago | Reply Ivenue average number of Trekkers visiting annually as stated in this newsitem has been 60 since 9/11, then there was hardly any foreign tourism to begin with. As far as written assurances go, when the Sri Lankan team who had been promised presidential level security could not be protected, when redcross workers or polio workers cannot be protected nor worshippers in a mosque or patients in a hospital or girls ina school bus - what chance do the trekkers stand - written security or not?
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