Tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan

By Mujahid Sulaiman

The region Gilgit Baltistan has dynamic tourism potential and provides diverse tourism opportunities for domestic and foreign tourists across the world. Being it home to the world’s highest mountain peaks and glaciers fascinates the attention of adventurers, mountaineers, trekkers, travelers and explorers. As four of the world’s 8000 meter high peaks i.e.k-2 ( 8611m), the world’s second highest peak, the  Broad peak (8060m), Gashabrum-1 (8068m) and Gasmhabrum-2 (8036m) are in Baltistan of GB. Apart from the captivating landscape and physical beauty the ethno-linguistic diversity and anthropogenic-environment is both plausible and practicable to flourish the tourism industry and to promote cultural values.

Also it would not be wrong saying that if sincere administrative and political efforts are put in national and regional level strengthening  tourism industry in Gilgit-Baltistan it will benefit to the whole country not only GB. But unfortunately, even after the decades of socio- political developments the service of tourism has not yet  assumed a descent part in the field so that the vacationer and visitor has to confront itself the numerous issues on their way. Although, government took initiatives, it goes for new MOUs and joint venture working plans with other sectors and governments also does paper work but for a robust development and remarkable change work on practical grounds matters solely, that lacks our administrative facets.
There are a number of factors that play a crucial role in promotion of tourism industry adopting that many countries drastically promoted their tourism industry. In this regard, the maintenance of law and order is a prerequisite in order to ensure the lives and property of people. As formerly the deteriorated law and order due to sectarian violence badly affected the medium of tourism in Gilgit Baltistan for years. But thanks to the law enforcement bodies that ensured peace in the territory and made convenient atmosphere for the development of tourism.
Similarly, the role of infrastructure is also decisive in development of tourism industry. Better the infrastructure greater the possibilities of accessibility to tourists. But sadly, a cursory look at the various tourist spots it seems that there is yet much to do for the government to build and capacitate infrastructure ensuring easy accessibility of visitors. Astore valley has significant tourism potential being it hub of various eye-catching lakes and valleys like Rama, Minimarg, and Deosi plans but the deteriorated road conditions hamper to tourists to access. The Minimarg valley which encompasses the greater ,administratively that’s why at all the Astore valley never got explored like Ghizar and Hunza.
 Likewise, the aspect of awareness also matters a lot people must have awareness to promote tourism and unveil the veiled valleys and landscapes as it attracts the attention of visitors and consequently tourism flourishes gradually. In this regard GB tourism department can play a crucial role in many ways. Like seminars, campaigns, media talks, opinion of experts and regional awareness sessions can be fruitful.
It is also pertinent to mention that yet the tourism department of GB has not yet articulated any clear-cut policy of tourism management keeping the futuristic short and long term policies and goals. Overall, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the haphazard management is leading the future of tourism towards decline. The tourism ministry must mull over sponsoring individuals and groups to espouse the main tourist spots and their publicity.
Like every cloud has a silver-lining, the positive side of story is that many mega projects of infrastructure has been completed better late than never like Skardu road, Hunza road while Ghizar and Astore valley road is under way. Speedy completion of such projects will not only provide easier access to the tourists but also ensure the road safety of travelers, as concurrently the rate of accidental fatalities   is getting hike that frightens others to travel.
Last but not least, only a bustling tourism industry can work as the engine of change in Gilgit-Baltistan in the absence of private sector. It has the capability to bring out its people of poverty and backwardness and will decide the economic future of GB. Notwithstanding, it will enhance the soft image of Pakistan internationally.
The writer is ex-visiting faculty of KIU. He can be contacted at; mujahidsalman88@gmail.com

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