Coronavirus travel bans boost Pakistan domestic tourism


Coronavirus travel bans around the world, exploration of new tourist destinations and infrastructure development have boosted Pakistan’s domestic tourism, with millions of local visitors flocking to the north and northwest of the country this summer.

A record of more than 5.5 million tourists, mostly local, visited the majestic mountains, verdant plateaus and scenic valleys of the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, which borders neighboring China, and the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), bordering Afghanistan, despite the coronavirus pandemic in this tourist season

In KP alone, nearly 4 million tourists visited famous tourist destinations of Swat, Chitral, Nathiagali Abbottabad, Kaghan and Naran in Mansehra from May to September, according to Latifur Rehman Khan, spokesperson for the KP tourism department. .

The beautiful Swat Valley, also known as Pakistani Switzerland, remained the favorite site visited by over 1.5 million people this year.

Khan told Anadolu Agency that a significant increase in domestic tourism is the result of infrastructure development at tourist sites, with several projects underway to provide facilities at international standards for tourists.

More than 1.5 million tourists, mostly locals, visited Gilgit-Baltistan during the summer season, up 30% from the previous year’s figures, said Raja Nasir Khan, the region’s tourism minister.

“Our tourist season is still going on. The fall and winter seasons are coming, and we hope that the number of tourists by the end of this year will be double that of yesteryear, ”Khan told Anadolu Agency.

– Boom in the aviation industry

Tens of thousands of well-off Pakistanis, who would otherwise travel to Europe, the Middle East, the Far East and other global destinations for vacations, are adding to the growing number of domestic tourists.

Yahya Polani, chairman of the chairman of the All Pakistan Travel Agencies Association, has confirmed that international travel, including for tourism purposes, has come to a screeching halt since the coronavirus pandemic hit the world.

But local air travel has resumed this year, especially during the tourist season, giving a sigh of relief to the otherwise dying local aviation industry, Polani told Anadolu Agency.

“There has been an extraordinary increase in local air travel this year due to the rise in domestic tourism. All the companies, which used to offer international tourism packages, are now taking their customers in large numbers to Gilgit, Skurdu, Swat Chitral and other destinations, “he said.

“Credit goes to the Prime Minister (Imran Khan) who has personally focused on promoting tourism,” Polani said, adding that the boom in domestic tourism has saved thousands of jobs in the aviation industry.

To cope with the growing number of tourists, state-owned Pakistan International Airlines recently launched direct flights for the first time from various cities, including the southern port city of Karachi to the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

– Panoramic Pakistan

Pakistan, without a doubt, is one of the few countries that offers a unique blend of history and biodiversity to environmental lovers.

From the snow-capped peaks of the north to the sparkling waters of the south, as well as endless opportunities to observe wildlife, sail the mighty Indus River and dive into the deep waters of the Arabian Sea, that nuclear state in Southeast Asia. South has much more to attract green people.

The northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, which borders China, is home to the six peaks over 8,000 meters, including the second highest peak in the world, K-2.

In addition, the region has more than 5,000 large and small glaciers and more than 100 lakes, which together form the largest reservoir of fresh water in the world.

Additionally, lovers of the environment can observe the endangered snow leopard and brown bear, in addition to 300 species of wildlife in the breathtaking region.

One can cruise the Indus to spot blind dolphins – also known as Indus dolphins

Towards the mountains like in Khunjerab National Park in Gilgit-Baltistan there are guaranteed sightings of the Himalayan ibex and if one goes northwest of Chitral near the Afghan border then markhor – the national animal of the country.

There are opportunities to see wildlife, sea turtles nesting near Karachi as well as the highly accessible national parks of Kirthar and Hingol in the southern Sindh and southwestern provinces of Balochistan, offering a mix of history and of biodiversity.

Recently discovered Kumrat, a breathtaking valley that lies near the Afghan border has become a favorite spot for tourists due to its sparkling blue lakes and verdant plateau in recent years.

“I have visited many countries around the world, but trust me, the natural beauty that I have seen here (Kumrat) is unique and amazing,” Sadiq Khan, a Dubai-based Pakistani told the agency. Anadolu.

“I had heard about the beauty of this valley and wanted to visit here. Finally, I am here,” he said with a smile.

A 50 kilometer (31 mile) road that leads into the Kumrat Valley from the Dir district requires major repairs and reconstruction. It’s muddy and bumpy.

“This tourist spot can change the lives and economy of the locals if a new road is built along with other infrastructure developments,” said Dr Fahim Shakir, who works at a public hospital in Dir.

Bilal Athar, a Karachi-based businessman who was vacationing abroad before the pandemic, has nothing but praise for the spectacular Neelam Valley of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, also known as Azad Kashmir.

“I had never been there before. It is magnificent beyond my expectations,” Athar told Anadolu Agency. With friends he visited the valley for the first time in August.

“I know that we are not the only ones who have explored the beauty of Pakistan for the first time. Thousands more have done so in the past two years,” he said. “My message to those who travel abroad for vacation is (who) forget the foreigner; Pakistan is simply magnificent in terms of tourism. “

– Religious tourism

Pakistan is only 70 years old, but it’s located in an area that has been home to the three major world religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism – for centuries.

The Muslim state of South Asia is home to dozens of revered pilgrimage sites – dating back 5,000 years – not only for followers of the three religions, but also for some prehistoric religions such as the Aryan, Barhaman and ancient religions. Iranian and Greek.

Almost 70,000 Sikhs from neighboring India and around the world visited their religious sites, mainly Kartarpur sahib – the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion – this year.

KP – once a children’s poster for terrorism and suicide bombings – is home to 70% of the country’s sites sacred to Sikhs and Buddhists. While Punjab, the most populous province in the country, and the southern province of Sindh are also home to several sites related to the three religions.

Once known as the heart of Gandhara civilization, Takhtbai or Takht-i-Bhai (original throne) – a quaint little town located 160 kilometers (99 miles) from the capital of Islamabad – is the most visited site by the Buddhists.

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