GILGIT-BALTISTAN: Gilgit-Baltistan government on Tuesday eased restrictions for foreign tourists wishing to visit the region.
“Foreigners who have obtained a valid visa will now be allowed to visit G-B,” an official in the G-B home department told The Express Tribune.
“However, there are some restricted areas, including the 10-mile strip along the Line of Control and 30 miles along the International Border which they will not be permitted to go to,” he added.
The region has been deemed unsuitable for foreign tourists since 2013 when gunmen clad in paramilitary uniforms stormed the Nanga Parbat base camp and shot dead nine mountaineers along with their Pakistani guide.
The attack shocked the world and damaged the country’s adventure tourism industry. Following the attack, the government placed restrictions on free movement of tourists in the region as they were unable to provide every tourist with security.
However, an official said the government has decided to change its policy in order to facilitate tourists who previously required permission to visit any part of the region.
“Such restrictions discouraged tourism in G-B,” he said.
However, tourists will still be expected to register at police check posts that dot the valleys.
The G-B government’s decision to ease travel restrictions is likely to encourage the tourism sector and generate revenue for the region.
Following the Nanga Parbat attack, revenue generated from tourism dropped by over 50% as foreign tourists stopped visiting the country. This was a critical blow to nearly 10,000 families who directly or indirectly depend on tourism for their livelihood.
According to tour operators, around 15,000 to 20,000 tourists, including mountaineers, visit Pakistan each year during summer. Each of them spends over $5,000.
Earlier, in April, the United Kingdom foreign office took back a travel advisory against visiting to G-B.
Further, the G-B government constituted a special high-altitude unit earlier this year as part of its plan to provide security to tourists. The unit comprises 50 police officers who are trained and equipped to handle any eventualities.