ISLAMABAD: With 2016 already a record year for the tourism sector in Pakistan at the local level, tourism was gradually recovering from the dark era of post September 11, 2001.
The country hopes to once again attract international tourists who had deserted it for the past 15 years, according to an articled published in “Asialyst” a Paris-based Website.
As Pakistan was one of the countries most affected by terrorism, since last year foreign travellers have been returning little by little.
In Karimabad, a small village overlooking the Hunza Valley in the Gilgit-Baltistan province of northern Pakistan, Lal Hussain, 65, looked out at the view of the river and the snow-capped peaks of the Karakoram.
It was the season when the apricot trees were in bloom and the water from the melting of the glaciers irrigated the valley.
With his son and nephews, Lal Hussain runs the Hunza Inn, one of the oldest hostels in Karimabad, established in 1980. “It’s not like before,” he sighed.
In the past fifteen years, Lal Hussain has lost 80% of his turnover. “Because of the foreign media, tourists have a biased image of Pakistan and are afraid to visit the region,” he said.
Seated around the large common table of the Hunza Inn, however, were some Chinese tourists who had ventured into the Pakistani mountains, and Fabrizio, an Italian from Rome.
After travelling extensively in India, Fabrizio was discovering the country for the first time. “It’s true that my family was afraid when I told them I was leaving for Pakistan,” he said. “But in reality, we don’t feel any danger here at all, there is no problem.”
He said he intended to hike, relax and visit the region.
Fabrizio was the only European in the village.
Twenty years ago, Karimabad was the gateway for all foreign backpackers and trekkers, said Lal Hussain. “In summer, the high season, we even had to refuse people,” he added.
Gilgit-Baltistan region is a paradise for mountaineers.
Located at the junction of the Hindu Kush and Karakoram ranges, between India, China and Afghanistan, it is home to five out of fourteen mountain peaks in the world that are over 8,000 metres high, including the mythical K2.
The hippie trail and the golden age of tourism in Pakistan Lal Hussain’s story is one of a flourishing industry that collapsed. Now, it is gradually reviving.
In 2015, Pakistan attracted 5,634 foreign tourists. According to the biennial report of the World Economic Forum, Pakistan ranks 125th in the world in terms of foreign tourists.
From Sindh, with its sandy beaches, to Punjab and its palaces, from the old city of Lahore to the heights of the Himalayas, not to mention the Cholistan desert, the “Country of the Pure” possesses all the trump cards it needs to attract travellers from all over the world, the articled noted.