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Old Tuesday, June 30, 2020
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Default K-P tourism industry in chokehold

While 2020 was ambitiously declared to be the year of tourism in Pakistan, little did anyone know that a pandemic was waiting to squander the country’s plans. The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), which once charmed thousands of local and foreign tourists, took the hardest hit of the coronavirus-induced travel restrictions when several businesses in province were left paralysed amid pandemic scare. Although, the centre had announced reopening the tourism sector earlier this month, the valiant decision had to be put on hold as a result of the recent jump in Covid-19 cases in K-P.
As the provincial government continues to cancel various local festivals, several hotels and tourism related businesses have started losing hope while many small and medium enterprises are already debating a permanent shutdown as a consequence of unrecoverable financial losses. On the other hand, following the sudden jump in virus cases, the K-P government had to also cancel the conference of Buddhist countries which was due to take place in April of 2020 as a means of promoting religious tourism in the country. In addition to that, the government has also ordered to close a number of tourist hotspots and weekend picnic destinations including the Buddhist monastic complex of Takht-i-Bahi, Shahbaz Garhi Buddhist site in Mardan, the Abaseen Picnic View on the bank of Tarbela Lake, Hund Park in Nowshera and picnic spots along the Indus and Kabul Rivers.
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The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Tourism Department had recorded a footfall of 2.5 million local tourists in Malakand, Swat and Upper Dir districts while some 60,000 vehicles had arrived in the valley. However, Khan says there have been no tourists in the valley since the lockdown and fears a similar trend for the rest of the year if restrictions persist. “Some 105 hotels in Chitral have been waiting for business for almost six months now. We couldn’t make much business last winter due to heavy snowfall, and this year the Chehlum Joshi festival also coincided with the lockdown dates. The festival is usually the busiest time for our business; that’s when we make most of our profit and cover for the year’s expenses too, but since there weren’t any tourists during the lockdown, we missed out on that opportunity too.”
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“Tourism has been the provincial government’s top priority and several activities had been arranged for its promotion before the virus rattled the country. But we are still looking into it and are hopeful that something will be figured out soon,” Junaid Khan told The Express Tribune
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