GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan government has eased restrictions on foreign tourists wishing to visit the scenic region.
“Foreigners who have obtained a valid visa will now be allowed to visit G-B,” an official in the home department told The Express Tribune on Tuesday. “However, there are some restricted areas which they will not be permitted to go. These places include the 10-mile strip along the Line of Control and 30 miles along the International Border.”
The region has been deemed unsuitable for foreign tourists since June 23, 2013 when gunmen clad in paramilitary uniforms stormed the Nanga Parbat base camp and shot dead nine mountaineers along with their Pakistani guide.
The attack shocked the world and damaged the country’s adventure tourism industry. Following the attack, the government placed restrictions on free movement of the tourists as it was unable to provide security to them.
Change of heart
However, the official said the government has decided to change its policy in order to facilitate tourists who initially required permission to visit even the unrestricted parts of the region. “Such restrictions had discouraged tourism in G-B,” he added. He said tourists will be expected to register with police check posts of the valleys they are visiting.
Back to life
The G-B government’s decision to ease travel restrictions is likely to encourage the tourism sector and generate revenue for the region.
Following the Nanga Parbat attack, revenue generated from tourism dropped by over 50% as foreign tourists stopped visiting the country. This was a critical blow to nearly 10,000 families who directly or indirectly depend on tourism for their livelihood.
According to tour operators, around 15,000 to 20,000 tourists, including mountaineers, visit Pakistan each year during summer. Each of them spends over $5,000.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2015.