Tourism industry again collapsed – this time due to floods


Recent floods that made around 20 million people homeless in Pakistan also collapsed the tourism industry in a country that was already becoming fragile due to a bad law-and-order situation. Swat valley, which had geared up its domestic tourism after a 2-year lull due to terrorism, is again faced with total disaster due to the heavy rainfalls and floods.

Around 101 hotels on the bank of the Swat River were flushed out in the floods, because these hotels were constructed on the bank of the river against the law of nature and against the law of the land. Around 277 people, including 6 domestic tourists, lost their lives in Swat valley, and thousands of tourists were stranded in the Kalam and Bahrain areas affected by the devastating rain-triggered floods.

There was no electricity in the entire district for 14 days and no road network left to evacuate tourists; therefore, the Pakistan Army provided helicopters to airlift them to Islamabad. All business activities and factories are closed in Swat.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited Swat valley to examine the flood situation and directed authorities to ensure an adequate food supply for flood victims and for improving communication links. The Prime Minister stressed the importance of proper connectivity of the Swat valley with other parts of the country and directed the Minister for Communications to ensure early restoration of roads and bridges so as to ensure unhindered provision of relief material.

Kalam in northern Pakistan was a popular tourist destination, famous for its terrain, view, and natural beauty. This worst flood in memory has wreaked havoc on these tourist facilities and has left locals wondering about their future. There are only two sources of income for Kalam – one is agriculture and the other is tourism, and both have been destroyed and seriously affected, said a resident. Kalam had some four hundred hotels and restaurants before the floods, dozens of which have been swept away in the raging waters. Most of the major hotels were either on the river bed or overlooking it from the edges of River Swat. The water-swept dams, swallowed fertile land, and torn-down bridges are effectively dividing the valley into two.

The floods that have caused massive devastation across the country struck at a time when tourism was in full swing, especially in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan. Damages inflicted on tourism infrastructure in these areas are estimated to run in billions. Apart from claiming so many human lives, the floods took a serious toll on hotels, motels, bridges, roads, and houses. It rendered thousands of people jobless who were affiliated with tourism.

Gilgit Baltistan and Kaghan Valley was also affected by the floods, rain, and collapse of infrastructure. Karakuram Highway, that was already blocked due to the Aliabad landslide, is now totally shutdown to traffic, and the Balakot-Kaghan road is also impassable.

Ecotourism Society Pakistan estimates damage to the priviate sector at around US$550 million, which includes postponement of confirmed tours, as well as damage to property and transportation.

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