Country needs quick reform measures to attract more tourists
Pakistan is endowed with a rich and varied flora and fauna. High Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindukush ranges with their alpine meadows and permanent snow line, coniferous forests down the sub-mountain scrub, the vast Indus plain merging into the great desert, the coast line and wetlands, all offer a remarkably rich variety of vegetation and associated wildlife including avifauna, both endemic and migratory.
From the mighty stretches of the Karakoram in the North to the vast alluvial delta of the Indus River in the South, Pakistan remains a land of high adventure and nature. Trekking, mountaineering, white water rafting, wild boar hunting, mountain and desert jeep safaris, camel and yak safaris, trout fishing and bird watching, are a few activities, which entice the adventure and nature lovers to Pakistan.
Swat valley is one of the major tourist attractions of Pakistan. It is known as the Switzerland of Pakistan, it has one of the oldest civilizations history and one of the beautiful scenery one could ever see. It lies between 34°-40′ to 35° N latitude and 72′ to 74°-6′ E longitude. It is located between the foothills of Hindukush mountain range. It is the part of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
The location of Swat valley has a major strategic importance as it lies in the region where South Asia, Central Asia and China meet. The major attractions of the Swat valley include its archeology, the lush green sites, the history and their art. Malam Jabba is one of the most beautiful resorts in the area of Swat. It is eighty seven hundred feet above the sea level. Approximately 314 km away from Islamabad, it is situated on the top of Hindu Kush mountain range, in the Northeast of Saidu Sharif. Saidu Sharif is a lovely place 51 km away from this resort.
The Malam Jabba Ski Resort is owned by the Pakistani Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC). The Ski Resort was a joint effort of Pakistani government and its Austrian counterpart. It had a ski slope of about 800m with the highest point of the slope 2804m (9200 feet) above sea level.
Modern facilities including roller/ice-skating rinks, chair lifts, skiing platforms, telephones and snow clearing equipment are available at the resort. These are one of the tourist attractions of the area. Two stations at Malam Jabba provide the facility of chair lift for tourists and couples for their enjoyment. This chair lift can elevate approximately 56 passengers at a time to the height of 10500 feet.
Inside the Malam Jabba resort, the facility of indoor games and other ice games are available. In winters, six to eight feet snow falls around the resort.
Two beautiful tracks for walking are also available in the area. The surroundings of those tracks included tall trees and beautiful scenic views. There is a ‘Green Valley’ where the tourist guides can take you to experience the beauty of a valley which has a green carpet of grass. Cattles can be seen grazing around in the valley. Flowers and plants of different kind can be seen there on the way to Green Valley.
With more facilities and hotels in the valley, more tourists can visit the scenery is unbelievable with icy mountain peaks, deep valleys, and forests as far as the eyes can see. Malam Jabba offers two skiing platforms, and chairlifts that facilitate 56 passengers, taking them to a height of 10,500 feet. There is also a chairlift for beginners and a warming house, snow clearing equipment and all modern facilities.
The foreign experts, who studied procurement requirements for restoring Malam Jabba Ski Resort, declared its slope inappropriate for any developing skier, leaving behind questions about the need to develop it as a skiing area.
“By any western standards, Malam Jabba as a ski resort is of extremely poor quality,” contains a USAID-sponsored study titled ‘Malam Jabba Lift Design-Build project on site condition assessment and procurement requirement.’ The study was finalized as part of the foreign agency’s initiative to help Pakistan rebuild the ski resort and aerial lift that the Swat Taliban had burnt after they took over Swat in 2008.
Experts said that Malam Jabba Ski Resort should be rebuilt with a focus to tap domestic skiing enthusiasts and tourists from Karachi and Lahore instead of looking towards the foreign destinations.
The two foreign consultants, who conducted the USAID-sponsored procurement requirement assessment, reported in their final report that the foreigners should consider visiting the resort as a tourist spot instead of a skiing place.
“A few hundred foreigners used to visit Malam Jabba, whereas the domestic tourists thronged the place in thousands every winter and summer,” said a foreign consultant.
According to the USAID report, weekends and holiday attendance during peak periods was reported to be between 1,000 and 4,000 and weekday attendance was estimated at 200-400.
According to experts, Malam Jabba had tremendous tourism potential, but it could not be developed as a busy and attractive tourist spot because of incompetence on the part of those, who were running its operations.
Business leaders believe that Pakistan can cope with ongoing economic crisis by focusing on tourism, which has a huge potential and is one of fastest growing sectors in the world.
According to them, bad law and order situation coupled with travel advisories issued by different developed countries had tarnished the image of country that needs to be taken care of. Image building of the country was a pre-requisite to tape the true potential of tourism.
Tourism is the main source of foreign exchange in several countries like Switzerland, Sri Lanka. We must develop this sector to attract local and foreign tourists. The country could earn billions of dollars every year from tourism, which is very important tool for any state to be known as welcoming country.
The need of the hour is to focus on law & order and provides incentives to tourists. By providing all facilities to tourists at Malam Jabba, foreign tourists can visit here, which will help fetch precious forex. Our places are worth seeing and treaty to watch.