HOSPITALITY IN SINDH & GB
TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI
Mar 21 - 27, 2011
Giving look of garrisons high-end hotels in all major cities of Pakistan are besieged with barricades, barbed wires, walkthrough gates, and other modern security paraphernalia as terrorism threats continue to mount. The present appearance was a consequence of raft of terrorist attacks at hotels beelined by foreign and local dignitaries. In Karachi, the kernel of commercial activities in the country, these hotels are located near the high security zone containing international embassies and therefore they could not escape irksome surveillance and security barriers.
Apart from irreparable damages terrorist attacks and subsequent security checks meted out on people, economic losses are huge and keep on rising. The hotel industry of Pakistan has been recording consistent declines in occupancy rates over the last 4 to 5 years.
NORTHERN AREAS AND GB
Many people earn bread and butter from tourism industry in Pakistan. The tourists coming from within and outside the country are the only sources of incomes for several families living in the remote towns of for example Gilgit Baltistan. Called as roof of the world, wonderland of Asia, and so on, Baltistan has many majestic sceneries. According to the ministry of tourism, arrival of tourists to the northern area has dwindled significantly following the participation of Pakistan into war on terror. Monstrous land-sliding of last year brought the traffic of tourists and hikers down in the spiritual healer valleys of Hunza and Gilgit. Avalanches deteriorated the roads and bridges, which were even previously not in good conditions because of lack of attention from the government departments.
It is very interesting to note that despite Gilgit Baltistan has been given a provincial status and importantly its tourists attractions are located far at a distance from areas being ravaged by US-led war, there is a popular misconception especially amongst foreign tourists that GB is in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. This perception has also led to cutback in traffic. A provincial minister says negative perception due to label of Northern Areas resulted into poor inflows of 62,000 tourists in 2010 in GB.
NATURE AND NURTURE
Chinese engineers are constructing extension phase of Karokram highway in the newly declared province bordering Afghanistan, Tajikistan, China, and India. Other mega projects Diamer-Bhasa, Bunji hydropower, and Satpara dam are also envisaged to be constructed in the area. Gilgit Baltistan has unique landscapes and pristine natural beauty. It has the world's second highest peak, 51,00 glaciers, 119 lakes, four national parks, three wild life sanctuaries, 23 species of reptiles, forests covering nine per cent of total area in the province, and 23 historical forts, according to the statistics compiled by GB government. The tourists inflows can reach 150,000 per annum provided seven flights per week and safe and multiple road links from Islamabad and Kashgar, notes an official paper. There are huge investment opportunities in eco-tourism of the province.
Security issues remain a main hindrance in inflows of tourists towards Sindh's architectural landmarks and heritage sites. The history of civilisation in Sindh dates back to third millennium BC. Therefore, the land of Sindh cherished some of the world's oldest human civilisations along the Indus River thought to have started flowing about 20 million years ago, as per the IUCN-Sindh Programme. Sindh has two world heritage sites: Mohen-Jo-Daro and Makli, the world's biggest necropolis. It has footprints in shape of forts, mosques, temples, and relics of several historical dynasties and Jain and Buddhist communities.
Surprising to general public were reports that a place in Sindh used to receive snowfalls when winter turned up inclement. Gorakh Hill, located 450 kilometres north of Karachi on the 6,000 feet elevation, is a hilly area in the province. Surrounded by majestic mountains, the Gorakh hill is a place that can become a summer resort equal in beauty and serenity to other tourist's spots in the country. Different governments felt the stir at the prospect of revenue that could be earned from ecotourism at the place giving comforts to heat-stricken people of low-lying cities and town. However, no project has consummated the dream of tourists to have an alternative to Muree and northern areas crowded by local and foreign tourists in winter.
Ministry of tourism claimed that it was working on proposals for investors to develop hotels, motels, and restaurants at the location. Yet, the government has to first construct roads and set up other important infrastructure. Security remains a major problem.
The local people are enduring abject poverty and subsisting on agriculture and dairy sectors. Unemployment and lack of health facilities and education are keeping the people under economic deprivations. Those who are fortunate to get proper education move to urban areas to come out of the shackles of perennial problems. Kidnapping and abductions are on the rise on main highways and arteries connecting settlements in interior Sindh. Theft and daylight street crimes are common on busy highway connecting Karachi to remote locations in Sindh. Local residents from urban areas think twice to visit areas near Dadu. Several cases of kidnapping for ransom have been recorded in the surrounding areas. The provincial government said that it would ensure safety of tourists in the area.
People living in Pakistan are to surely be given a prominent place on the annals of history for their endurance and patience in the face of unstoppable challenges from social and economic fronts.
Economic empowerment to masses is the only way to overcome these challenges. Promotion of hotel and tourism industry can result in employment generation and bring changes in the living standards of underprivileged people living in and around tourist attractions. Diversifying sources of income for people can also hold back people becoming feedstock to terrorism acts for want of money. Safety and security around the tourist destinations can improve tourist traffics.