CoVID19 and Gilgit-Baltistan’s Tourism Industry

By Yahya Ali Sharif

Natural beauty is one of the most wonderful blessings gifted to mankind by Allah, the Almighty. Allah has created nature not only to support our physical existence but also for our psychological well-being. All of Allah’s creations prove that Allah loves beauty and also desires us to be conscious of its importance. In every aspect of nature, be it the running water, the sky, the sea, the high mountains or the flying birds, creatures in the sea or the wilderness in the forest, or the dry desert and the oases therein, there is an eye catching attraction for the humankind, to feed its inner senses with joy. Certainly there is a lesson for man to understand the meanings behind these creations.

“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the day and night there are signs for people of reason. (Quran 3:190)”

Pakistan is one of the few countries with such a dynamic landscape, rivers, deserts, lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, mountains and many more.
The renowned region Gilgit Baltistan referred to as heaven on earth, the mighty Siachen Glacier, the Grand Himalayas and the magnificent Karakoram ranges, this place has been a great tourist attraction for many years. It also has geostrategic importance because in the world. This region is renowned for its beautiful mountains and lush valleys. The people of this area are well educated, very gentle and soft-spoken.  Here most of people’s depend on mixed tourism industry i.e. Hotels, Rest Houses and Accommodation, Travel Services, Handcraft and Shopping, Sports and Mountaineering Goods and many more. According to Tourism Department of Gilgit Baltistan the past few years have seen a steady increase in foreign tourist visiting Gilgit Baltistan. The average Tourist Inflow on the basis of last 3 years data was 14% (8504) foreign tourist and 86% (54040) domestic tourist visited different regions of Gilgit Baltistan.

There was a time when people used to visit Gilgit Baltistan to spend their vacations with their families. They still do, but now the flow of tourist has decreased much more than before because of COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an unprecedented crisis in the tourism sector o Gilgit Baltistan and given the immediate and immense shock to the tourism sector. Especially they affect some specific sectors, first and foremost, a humanitarian crisis affecting people’s lives. This has very tangible impacts for the tourism sector, which is critical for many people, places and businesses, with the impact particularly felt in cities and different regions where tourism is an important. Impacts of COVID-19 on selected tourism industry branches like Transport and tour operators, Tour, Hotels, Guest Houses, Restaurants, Tour guides etc.

Tour guides: The tour guides are seeing significant drops in their activities, placing significant constraints on their income.

Restaurants: Food and catering service providers had initially been required in areas and occasions like weeding, events etc. Due to this pandemic the government also imposed restrictions on it. The restriction resulted in the closing of restaurants, affecting thousands employees, who have been temporarily laid off and placed on technical unemployment.

Events and Business:

Many Historical events have cancelled even due to the coronavirus. Events of all sizes have also been affected, including local historical events.

Travel companies. Travel agencies and online bookings are also being hit by the crisis due to the significant slowdown.

Now restrictions are progressively being lifted in most countries, as people return to work and start travelling again on a limited scale.  Easing restrictions and re-opening tourism activities: country examples

Australia: From 15 May, all restaurants, cafes, bars, will reopen under certain restrictions, such as limited number of people at one table, while accommodation providers and tourism sites may reopen at the end of May.

Israel: From 5 May, activities and businesses have been allowed to open, including rural accommodations, hotels and lodges, nature reserves, heritage sites and national parks, under strict hygiene regulations of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism.

Europe and other countries are starting to lift coronavirus restrictions. So we also need to lift the different restrictions to restore our tourism industry.

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