Since the diversion of world’s perspective from war, territorial and religious dominancy towards socio-economic prosperity, tourism industry has become one of the main potential holding sectors of any country predominantly after WW-II. Human beings have been continually putting efforts and utilizing all sorts of possible resources for the betterment of life and to uplift the standard of living not only for individual but for the well-being of whole society by the time now.
Tourism has now become the most influential industry to promote a country’s culture, brand image and beauty alongside boosting its own economic development. The process pertains to visit national and international religious, historical, cultural, adventurous, developmental and living style of multiple ethnics for both educational and entertainment purposes.
As the western world has already touched the apex potential of tourism industry with its enchanting infrastructure development and eye catching marvelous natural scenery, countries like New Zealand, has completely shifted its economic dependency from industrial production and natural mineral resources to soft economic resources like tourism. UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) shows that more than 90 million visitors were recorded in France in the year 2019, making it world’s top most tourist destination.
With the time passing and trends changing, Pakistan, despite being rich in religious, historical, adventurous, cultural and diversified geographical tourist destination, couldn’t make itself among top priorities of tourists. The reason can be subject to its Political instability, security issues, poor infrastructure development, governance crisis, poor management at tourist destination, lack of interest of authorities towards tourism industry, lack of proper international coverage, sectarian violence, hindrances in getting visa and many more. Though, it has been very hard for Pakistan to attract tourists’ attention specially form outside, yet it has still seen a substantial influx of tourists especially after 2018, with the Northern areas, chiefly Gilgit Baltistan, being the top most priority.
Gilgit Baltistan, the north most disputed territory with its unique landscape possessing world’s most famous mountain ranges the Himalayas, Karakorum and Hindu Kush, hundreds of glaciers, more than 119 lakes, 4 national parks, 9 game reserves, second highest mountain peak, K-2, highest altitude cold desert of the world, Sarfaranga desert and the roof of the world, Deosai, has shown a mysterious and hidden natural glance and scenic beauty to the world, with the dawn of globalization crashing the national and transnational border barriers making it the most tourist potential territory of Pakistan.
Beside these, the diversified culture and the tradition of hospitality, Gilgit Baltistan offers 5 ethnic groups and 5 ethnic languages, 23 historical forts and 73 polo grounds. Glorification of tourism has led to a high influx of tourists both national and international in Gilgit Baltistan in the recent time. More than 200,000 tourists visit GB every year from inside Pakistan excluding foreigners. Recently, the PTI government has given International status to Sardou airport which showed a more positive result by increasing outreach and attracting more foreigners. But such a high influx is causing both positive and negative impacts on the lives and their natural environment.
Since the inception of high intrusion of tourists primarily after 2015, there has been a surge in economic opportunities in the allied industry like, hotels, resorts and accommodation, transportation, skill development, travel services, food and beverages, sports and maintaining goods, entertainment, handicraft and shopping. Simultaneously, the abrupt change in social structure due to the influence of culture, language and life style of cross border inhabitants on the indigenous locals can’t be ignored, which has been posing multiple social challenges.
Because of being a remote and backward corner, most of the people are stick to their conservative traditions, culture and way of life but young generations are curious to adopt new trends either by mixing with their exercising traditions or by trying to adjust with new traditions. This social dilemma is becoming a matter of great concern. The developing gap in adopting new social change and changing traditional values has started creating a space between effort and reward, consequently imposing psychological trauma like depression, suicide and family level conflicts etc.
Aside of social challenges, the poor infrastructure preparedness to welcome foreigners can result into huge unwanted incidents like Murree tragedy, if the concerned authorities and government showed a deaf ear towards the sustainable environmental infrastructure development necessary to adopt the new changes. This poor insightness, mismanaged and lack of emergency preparedness tourism sector by competent authority may cause a black spot on the future tourism industry of not only Gilgit Baltistan but on the whole country halting all types of economic activities in the adjacent areas.
It is inevitable to take pro-active measures and manage the mismanaged and irregular tourism industry before any unwanted incident; otherwise this pushing socioeconomic resource can turn into a “curse” as usual in Pakistan.
Recent loan initiative scheme by Chief Minister GB for business entrepreneurs related to tourism industry is very encouraging, such more initiatives and factors depicted are need to give more focus to flourish tourism in GB.
- GB government should allocate separate funds for infrastructure development of tourist destinations in collaboration with their owners.
- Safety of tourist is the most necessary thing to encourage more tourists’ attraction towards the region. Tourist police should be given more power and resources to exercise their power against Hotel mafia in order to ensure tourists’ security.
- Our culture, traditions and values are different and unique, district administration should be ordered particular instructions to keep a check and balance violating cultural, religious and values of indigenous residents by outside tourists.
- Being a new comer to an anonymous place, many hotel mafias try loot tourist by charging more taking benefit of their helplessness, this illegal act of hotel and accommodation services provider will cost a huge damage to the industry in near future, government should issue order and instruction to both the tourists and owners to avoid such clashes.
- Many non-registered tourist agencies are being operated without proper license causing unusual road accidents and other casualties. Concerned authorities should take notice of such street agencies to ensure both the sustainability of industry and safety of lives as well.
Tourism is a new-born industry in GB which should be operated with proper policy and management otherwise with no time this huge economic resources will halt causing a huge economic and social loss to GB and so Pakistan.