While the spread of the corona virus has created a health crisis in Pakistan, most sectors, including tourism, are also being affected.
Tourism across the country has been closed since the third week of March on government orders. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) considers tourism important for the economy, but in the current situation, there is a danger of spreading the virus by opening tourist and recreational places.
That is why the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had postponed its decision to lift the ban on tourism. The Gilgit-Baltistan government has imposed a two-week ban on tourism.
These two regions of Pakistan attract millions of domestic and foreign tourists every year.
Why was the decision to revive tourism withdrawn?
Prime Minister Imran Khan had said last week that “we think tourism should be opened because in areas where tourism takes place, these are the three or four months of summer to do business.”
But the decision has been delayed due to an increase in the number of people infected with the virus.
Junaid Khan, managing director of the Tourism Corporation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told t that it was initially decided that tourists would be allowed limited entry into the Hazara and Malakand divisions from June 9 (Tuesday).
But after a meeting of the task force, he says, it has been decided that tourism will continue to be banned for the time being.
According to Junaid Khan, the decision to lift the ban on tourism was taken by the federal government. “But so far we have not received any notice from the federation.”
On the other hand, the Gilgit-Baltistan government has decided not to open tourism on its own, but even here the authorities are waiting for clear instructions from the federal government.
Junaid Khan said, “We have completed all the steps to open up tourism on a limited scale. “Our local administration is also ready.”
‘SOPs (instructions) are ready. Currently, we are not lifting the ban on tourism. Maybe in a couple of days we will lift the ban.
“Before the ban was lifted, we felt that the necessary training would be provided to those involved in the tourism sector to implement the SOPs so that they would not face any problems later,” he said. These will include hotels, restaurants, transporters, tour guides and others.
Importance of tourism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
According to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, tourism is an emerging industry. The volume of tourism was 86.23 million in 2012 which has increased to 791 million in 2018/19.
It should be noted that last year, according to the Department of Tourism Promotion, 2 million people visited tourist destinations in the province, of which 20,000 were foreigners, which is a record number.
No clear figures are available on how much damage has been done by the March ban on tourism.
However, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government estimates that the situation has cost the tourism sector between three and four billion rupees. The number of day laborers in the industry is 56,000 who have been affected.
According to the Swat Hotel Association, 23,000 people are directly employed in 400 hotels and guest houses in Swat.
There are thousands of hotels and residences in these tourist destinations. And the ban is thought to be affecting people in the sector.
Are SOPs created for tourism?
According to a preliminary decision by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, all hotels, guest houses and other tourism-related businesses in Malakand and Hazara will be allowed to operate in the light of government directives and SOPs. However, final approval from the federal and provincial governments will be required.
These SOPs have been developed in the light of the guidelines of the World Health Organization or WHO. Under them, all foreign tourists will be bound to follow the instructions of the government of Pakistan.
Only tourists traveling with their families will be allowed to travel. Every tourist will have to wear a mask and gloves.
Vehicles will be sprayed and disinfected. Social distance must also be observed inside the vehicle.
Safety brochures will be attached to each set. Sanitizers will be provided in the vehicle.
The driver will be required to wear a mask and gloves when using public transport or a private transport facility.
Hotels and guesthouses will ensure that they keep the local authorities informed about the health of tourists.
The temperature will be checked before entering the hotel, guest houses. Disinfect walk-through gates will be installed. No one will be allowed to enter the hotel and guest house without a mask.
Goods will also be disinfected.
Only half of the rooms available in hotels and guesthouses can be used. Two people will not be allowed to stay in one person’s room.
The same rules apply to dining halls and dining areas. Disposable containers will be preferred and staff will be asked to maintain maximum distance.
Only two or less people will be able to use the elevator at a time. When going up and down the stairs, it will be ensured that people do not face each other.
More than one tourist will not be allowed to enter a place. However, it is not clear how many tourists will be accepted at a time.