PESHAWAR: With the opening of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) tourists’ destinations, millions of local tourists have started arriving at scenic valleys that were closed for several months to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
According to Galyat Development Authority (GDA) sources, as soon as the government announced to open the scenic valleys for tourists, more than 50,000 vehicles of tourists have arrived in Galyat, a tourist destination in Hazara Division, alone carrying around 200,000 local tourists in a single day.
Amjad Ali Sahab, a senior journalist from Swat, told Pakistan Today that the opening of tourism by the government has attracted millions of tourists to the Swat Valley, and 95 per cent of hotel rooms are booked in Kalam. “With a large number of tourists visiting Swat is helping in a revival of the industry which was badly affected by lockdowns,” Sahab said.
He further said that due to the construction of Swat Motorway and Road to Kalam, the influx of tourists from other provinces has resulted in a 50 per cent increase in sales of Islampur Cottage Industry products in Swat. The influx of tourists has also increased the sales of fruits, nuts, and other local products, he said.
Similarly, other tourist destinations of the Hazara Division, such as Kaghan, Naran, Mansehra, Balakot, Shugaran, and Thandiani, also received thousands of tourists which is contributing to the revival of the hotel, transport, poultry industries as well as generating employment opportunities for the local population.
Khalid Ayub, provincial chairman of the Hotel and Restaurant Association, told Pakistan Today that the tourism sector, like other industries, has been severely affected by the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Ayub added that the tourism sector has suffered a loss of Rs12 billion since the imposition of lockdowns from March to July due to Covid-19.
He further said that the peak season for tourism is three months from June 15 to September 15, and two of them had already lapsed. After the peak season, the onset of cold in the Northern Area reduces the number of tourists, he added.
KP Health Department has issued SOPs for tourists, hotels, and restaurants. Officials have decided to set up health desks at all tourist destinations and fever checks will be carried out at all entry points. The health officials have directed that a proper tourist’s data must be kept and the tourists must wear face masks and sanitizers, maintain a social distance, and be allowed to gather outside the hotel instead of gathering at the hotel.
In case of suspicion of coronavirus or any emergency, the tourist has to go to the nearest health center as soon as possible after which the sick tourists have to be kept separate from the healthy tourists. It has been decided to distribute awareness pamphlets and install banners to protect tourists from coronavirus by encouraging social distance, frequent handwashing with soap, and keeping the rush to a minimum. Rooms in hotels will have to be disinfected and staff of hotels and restaurants will have to wear anti-coronavirus kits.