ISLAMABAD: The government has received over 800 applications from adventure tourists while its expecting at least 500 mountaineers and trekkers will come to Pakistan this summer.
“So far, 22 applicants have been issued permits to visit the northern areas for adventure tourism. The visa processing time has to be speedy to allow more foreign tourists to visit Pakistan for trekking and climbing activities,” said a source in the tourism department of Gilgit-Baltistan.
According to a senior official, in a meeting held on Saturday the concern of delay in visa processing time was raised and conveyed to all stakeholders. It was emphasised that the visa processing time should not take longer than 10 days instead of one to two months during which tourists either lose interest or change their travel plans and move to attractive destinations in other countries.
“All applications are forwarded to security agencies which give clearances before visas could be issued to trekkers and climbers planning to visit the northern areas,” said the official.
Cancellation of the first international flight to Gilgit-Baltistan on May 13 for unknown reasons was quite discouraging.
“We were looking forward to GB becoming the hub of international tourist destination,” said Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) Secretary Karrar Haidri while talking to Dawn, adding the Skardu airport upgraded to international standards to handle the first international flight would be a major breakthrough for promotion of tourism in Pakistan.
To handle the first ever international flight to the beautiful city of snow-capped peaks and high altitude desert, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had requested all concerned departments and institutions to complete/furnish all necessary preparations and formalities.
Mr Haidri said Pakistan needed to welcome foreign tourists like Nepal where a flight full of tourists landed every 10 minutes.
Pakistan Tour Operators Association Joint SecretaryMohammad Umar demanded that visa processing of foreign tourists should not be longer than 15 days minimum to four weeks maximum. “Often applications are left pending for weeks,” he complained.
He also suggested that once foreign tourists were issued visas, they should not be harassed for no-objection certificates (NOCs) to visit every corner of the country.
“In many popular destinations, foreigners enjoy peace of mind and roam freely without worrying about bureaucratic hurdles. After a visa is issued, there should be no more hurdles, especially after the tourist has landed,” he said.
But the situation is far better than past years, Mr Umar said. However, there is always room for improvements, especially when Pakistan was being promoted as the nicest and best tourist destination in the world blessed with breathtaking natural beautiful. “Visa process has to be made easier than before if foreign tourist has to be attracted to Pakistan,” he said.