Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Has Witnessed A Tourism Boom Over The Past Year

"The reconstruction of roads leading to tourist sites is a top priority for authorities"

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Has Witnessed A Tourism Boom Over The Past Year

In the year 2023, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa experienced a significant upswing in tourism, with an impressive 16.9 million individuals exploring its blessed landscapes and vibrant locales, as per a recent report from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Department of Tourism.

The record influx of tourists was made possible across different districts of the province, as stated in the released report. The data was collected by the 1422 call centre under the supervision of the World Bank's Kite Project.

From January to December 2023, a total of 16,988,946 tourists visited the province. The count of foreign tourists was reported at 4,554.

In 2023, the Galiyat valley attracted the highest number of tourists, with 6,348,039 individuals engaging in sightseeing from January to December, according to the Department of Tourism's report. Other popular destinations included Naran Kaghan Valley with 5,080,313 tourists, Swat with 3,549,553 tourists, Dir Upper and Lower Dir with 1,380,740 tourists, Chitral Lower with 591,330 tourists and Upper Chitral with 38,771 tourists. Additionally, more foreign tourists were reported in Chitral Upper (791), Dir Upper and Lower (417), Galiyat (237), Swat (588), and Naran Kaghan (897).

Tourists faced various challenges during their visits to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and their complaints were communicated to relevant authorities through the tourism helpline. The majority of complaints pertained to the deteriorating condition of roads and traffic jams. Overcharging by hotels or restaurants also featured prominently in the registered complaints.

Sara Khan, a tourist from Lahore, told TFT-ND that Pakistan is a beautiful and peaceful country that can be compared to such destinations globally, offering a wide array of facilities. However, she urged the government to address the infrastructure issues leading to tourist spots.

Sara further shared her experiences, stating that she has explored every beautiful valley in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, often traveling with her female friends alone, and commended the hospitable nature of the local people.

President of the Hotel Association, Al-Haj Zahid Khan, expressed a warm welcome to both domestic and foreign tourists. While acknowledging the current law and order situation, he appealed to the government to focus more on developing tourist spots. Zahid Khan highlighted the significant damage suffered by businessmen and local residents in tourist areas due to floods, emphasizing the lack of adequate government arrangements and ongoing losses.

In response to tourist complaints, Saad bin Awais, spokesperson for the provincial authority, informed TFT-ND that all complaints are promptly forwarded to the district administration for timely resolution. Tourism police officers are deployed at tourist places to ensure the convenience and safety of visitors.

Emphasising the peaceful nature of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan, Saad reiterated that everyone can visit tourist places without any risk, extending a warm welcome. The province organises festivals in various areas to attract tourists, offering remarkable entertainment activities and generating employment opportunities for locals.

Barrister Firoz Jamal, the Caretaker Minister for Tourism in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, affirmed in media statements that the province's positive law and order situation is evident from the large number of tourists. He assured that protection is provided to every tourist, both domestic and international, visiting the province.

Firoz Jamal says, "Our priority is to attract foreign tourists to the northern regions and for this purpose SOPs have been made for tourists to ensure their safety."

The caretaker tourism minister said that new picnic spots are being built in Naran and Swat where all kinds of facilities will be provided. The reconstruction of roads leading to tourist sites is also a top priority, because tourism cannot be promoted without improving the communication system.

He further said that “due to the Buddhist archaeology, religious tourism has also received a significant boost – as a result, a large number of Buddhists visited Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province this year.”

It should be noted that last year in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, a total of 8,859, 636 tourists arrived to enjoy the natural beauty of these areas.

The author has been a correspondent for national & international broadcasters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for the past five years.