By Faheem Baig
Hunza is in a deep trouble due to a gradual loss of its cultural and environmental purity and capital. The valley’s ability to attract tourist from across the globe has diminished. There are a number of factors which have led to the downfall of Hunza valley as a tourist spot. First and foremost is the lack of any coherent tourism policy, unplanned infrastructural development, shortage of clean drinking water, absence of waste management committees, uncontrolled prices in restaurants, ever increasing low-quality guesthouses and unregistered hotels, which in turn compromise the common resources of whole region.
More than half a million people visited this small valley last year. However, most of these tourists have faced multiple hurdles and issues due to lack of proper infrastructure. The callousness of policymakers can be gauged from the fact that not a single recreational spot has been improved or provided with basic facilities, like information center, reasonable parking slot, road access, and electricity.
In many developing countries tourism industry is being recognized and prioritized as one of the key revenue source for the state to lessen the gap between social and economic disparities. Mostly, tourism activities lead to improvements in infrastructure, economic stability, restoration of heritage site and architectural monuments, and preservation of natural environment. Perhaps most importantly, tourism activities help to create a good image of the country among foreigners.
Despite the richness of natural resources and cultural diversity in different valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan, especially in Hunza, tourism industry has not been developed and its capacity has not been improved.
When asked about the economic benefits of tourist’s activities, a local said, “being a fragile industry, and due to the absence of tourism policy, the economic benefits of tourism are solely being enjoyed by unregistered hotels and tour operators based in Islamabad, while only a limited amount is reinvested in the local markets”.
Similarly, to gain economic gains many local people are entering in unethical activities, like selling drugs, which is worrisome, to say the least.
Physical distance and geography, along with cultural and environmental attributes, make rural areas ideal to visit and experience the authenticity; however, the aforementioned issues discussed in this write-up hinder the experience.
To deal sagaciously the said issues, the local administration and people have to understand the variations and modern trends in tourism industry to design a stable tourism policy for replacing conventional rural development programs.
The contributor is an M.Phil student at PIDE, Islamabad.