ABBOTABAD: Like years gone by, Hazara division remained a massive tourist attraction for locals and people from the rest of the country during Eid.
Hundreds of picnickers visited Khanpur Dam, Tarbela Lake as well as Bhutri, Mang and Kahal, small dams of Haripur. The more preferred spots were Havelian, Harno Amusement and Entertainment Park, Shimla Hill, Nathiagali, Ayubia in Abbottabad and Kaghan Valley in Mansehra district. Harno park witnessed a large number of families enjoying water sports and the small artificial lake, while the children were busy on the merry-go-round.
“We attracted over 15,000 picnickers on the first day alone”, claimed Jodat Manager Mehdi Bangash whose company leases the land on the River Daur side in Harno. He said the next few months would see the establishment of a zoo at the amusement park.
Naveed Ahmed, a picnicker from Islamabad, expressed his satisfaction over the arrangements, but demanded the government encourage public-private partnerships to develop ecotourism in Hazara. Especially Khanpur, he added, where there were Buddhist sites. Tarbela Lake and Kahal and Mang dams were easily accessible through Khanpur Road for picnickers from Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Wah Cantt and surrounding areas, said Ahmed. He said the government must fulfil Hazara’s potential as a tourist destination.
Peak season prices
Rates by hoteliers and those offering tents for rent remained unchecked and businessmen jumped on the chance to overcharge customers.
Khursheed Chaudhry, a tourist from Lahore, said he got a single room for Rs5,000 last year, but this time the same hotel owner charged him Rs25,000. The rates went as high as Rs30,000 per night for similar accommodation.
Tourists preferring to spend the night in tents also paid between Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 per night. “The normal rates for a tent usually never exceeded Rs2,000,” said local journalist Noman Shah.
There were also massive gridlocks on Karakoram Highway near Balakot, Bhoonja, Jalkhad Road and Lake Road due to the absence of traffic police on the first two days of Eid. Tourists also suffered in hours-long traffic jams in Abbottabad and between Shahiya Toll Plaza and Darwesh turnaround in Haripur. A traffic plan for Abbottabad had been put on paper prior to Eid.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.