Why Gilgit-Baltistan is not given the appreciation it deserves

Published: August 8, 2015
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A spectacular destination with the world’s three tallest mountain ranges, lush green plateaus, colourful valleys, dazzling waterfalls, and much more. PHOTO: AFP

The world has shrunk into a global village and everything seems to be available at the request of a single click. The promotion of any sort of business, even in far flung developing countries, has become easier than before. It seems that social media is facilitating the marketers to a great extent.

However, this ease has triggered a complex competition of creative ideas, a race of initiatives, and the tactical management of these social media mechanics in order to attract fruitful prospects. In such a scenario, it was really surprising for me when I couldn’t find the name of our country and its beautiful and scenic tourism spots places on international tourism websites and blogs.

While working on a project, I randomly browsed through 50 sites and found almost every tourist destination in their list, except for Pakistan. Then to overcome my astonishment, I started exploring the essential traits of tourist destinations, something which I figured our country is lacking.

Majority of tourists want to go to places where they can enjoy nature at its best and relax. Fortunately, Pakistan has marvellous destinations like Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) which is blessed with breath-taking landscapes to satisfy these eco-tourists.

It is a spectacular destination with the world’s three tallest mountain ranges, lush green plateaus, colourful valleys, dazzling waterfalls, and much more which cannot be described in words.

Secondly, a major chunk of tourists are fond of adventurous activities. To accommodate them, G-B offers a wide range of activities such as trekking, paragliding, skiing, fishing, and boating etc. Moreover, diversified cultural and colourful festivals along with the tradition of hospitality and the general warmth the people of G-B exude, makes this place all the more an attraction for tourists.

Despite so many striking features, why is this region still far behind other countries, considering its natural scenic beauty?

The problem lies in the poor projection and promotion of this destination. The issue of poor infrastructure, accessibility issues, and security conditions in the past have also deteriorated G-B’s image further. However, in reality, a lot of work is in progress to resolve these issues. We just need to work hard to change the poor perception the world has about G-B.

I’ve devised a two-way approach to handle this situation tactfully.

Highlight the progress being undertaken in G-B

The operation taking place in the northern areas, Zarb-e Azb, has reduced security issues to a great extent. Hence, disseminating the success of this mission to the general public is critical at this point.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been providing two regular flights to G-B since a while now, which addresses the misconception regarding the accessibility of this region. Moreover, the Lowari Tunnel is under progress, which will facilitate travellers to a great extent.

Numerous hydropower plants have been established to provide electricity to industrial and civilian areas. And the investment of $46 billion for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will definitely have a positive impact on this region as well. The government needs to identify and work on lucrative investment opportunities

It is a fact that tourists are always attracted to progress, which is why developed countries have a booming tourism industry. G-B is a region blessed with so many productive resources; however, there is a dire need to work on improving the existing businesses in order to attract foreign investment in this region. Tourism in Pakistan will definitely get the required boost once it gets the right sort of investment.

We can take the example of the gemstone industry; it could be a rewarding field if efforts are made in the right direction. This resource can bring in huge revenues, only if the latest technology is deployed for mining and extracting.

The export of organic fruits is another profitable business, but yet again, it is suffering miserably due to inadequate substandard packaging and preservation techniques. The unavailability of proper cold storages is further creating obstacles.

The aforementioned areas, if developed correctly, can play a vital role in the prosperity of the region and our country. Highlighting such investment opportunities will help change the negative perception the world has about G-B.

Promoting Pakistan through social media tools

The concerned authorities need to develop a thorough planned campaign in order to project the progress of our country.

The campaign should be built by combining various social media tools to generate awareness about beautiful destinations within Pakistan. Simultaneously, it is crucial to create awareness about developments underway, concurrently highlighting available investment opportunities. The following steps would prove to be positive steps:

1. Contacting international bloggers, famous travelling websites would be highly beneficial.

2. Collaborating with different tourism organisations, such as World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is highly recommended to formulate plans for mutual benefits.

3. Proper management and utilisation of prospective tourist database

4. Designing and publicising tours filled with events and festivals on social media forums would attract the attention of foreigners.

Although there are several ways to promote tourism in the short run, however, to achieve sustainability in the long run, there is a dire need to change the perception of tourists. We need to work on the overall progress of this region.

Secondly, the projection of this progress on social media is fundamental in order to achieve this target. We all need to play a part in this drive for reviving tourism.

At the moment, there are a few websites and Facebook pages working towards the revival of tourism in this region. Being Pakistanis, we need to support such activities in order to build a progressive image of Pakistan and to promote tourism and other industries.

So let’s play our part and provide G-B and Pakistan with the appreciation it deserves.

Sana Sabir

Sana Sabir

The author is a program manager at the University of Management and Technology.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.