By Shujaat Ali (Booni)
Chitral is the most livable place in Pakistan due to its civilized, peace loving citizens, and scenic valleys. It has preserved the most respectable and ancient Kalasha people and their culture in its laps.
The Khow cultue itself is a beautiful palate of Central Asian taste in the northern Pakistan. The Lowari tunnel has made an easy access to this wonderful land in the earth.
A common citizen of Pakistan who desire some leisure moment in his life may dare to visit the area. The downside of Chitral lacks tourist facilities from the private sector, basic infrastructure like roads from the government and management and facilitation of visitors from the district government.
Recently on occasion of the Eidul Fitr, thousands of tourist from other parts of the country and surrounding districts entered Chitral. The road infrastructures to Kalash valleys smashed the excitement of the visitors when they stuck for hours in the narrow streets of Ayun.
The tourist faced problems due to the closed hotels, restaurants and other facilities. I become disappointed when receive the comments of some visitors from the lower Dir and Charssada.
They described their dissatisfaction and said that they were very disheartened to see the lack of facilities, they will not visit the area again and will communicate in their circles about the hurdles in the area and restrain them to visit Chitral. They were saddened due to non-availability of food and high prices of hotels and guesthouses.
Our mind set is in the pre-Lowari tunnel era and we closed the hotels and restaurants even in the main Chitral city in the Ramazan Mubarak and in the eve of Eid. Most of the vegetable, poultry and tandoor shop owner are non-local, the closed their shops on Eid.
I am optimistic that the things will improve and our economy will rise again due to these tourists and visitors from the other areas of Pakistan until we are fully open to international visiting communities. But to achieve the satisfaction of the visitors and increase the flow of tourists we should have awaken and our local government and authorities should have taken the following steps:
1: The tourist facilitation center should be functional and not restrain itself to serve the international visitors. It should have to open its branch offices near the Lowari tunnel and Shandur Pass to guide the National and international tourist about the areas, hotels, foods, culture, roads, distances, festivals places, weather, security and other information. They may hire the services of local volunteers as internees that welcome the tourists in the start of Chitral area. they will provide Chitral map with other information to tourists. They will also manage the data of tourist for further utilization. They may inform all the stakeholders about the inflow of tourist to prepare themselves for the services.
2: The hotel and restaurants owners along with basic need shops like, vegetable, poultry and others should be instructed to keep open on the 24/7 hours day basis during the festivals and other occasions of inflow of the tourists.
3: Traffic police and security forces should be deputed to maintain the flow of traffic in the narrow streets and surrounding the festival places to facilitate the traffic and visitors.
4: A control room for the facilitation of tourist should be established and its contact numbers should be widely exhibited in every corner of Chitral. The tourist and visitors in case of any problem may get help form the control room.
5: The authorities should make visit plans for tourist and in case of rush in one area, the other tourist may be diverted to other places. In this case all the areas may get equal opportunities of income generation and infrastructure development.
6: Every village council should identify a tourist spot in his area and every year should allocate funds for its development. That may be camping site, fishing site, festival place, famous spring, beautiful and visit able site, glaciers, water fall, historic building and so on.
7: For the facilitation and amusement of tourist every village council should have its culture wing, that should develop local artists for presentation of culture shows on commercial basis to the visitors.
8: The district government should develop hotels, tourist resorts and guest houses in very village with the help of local investors, that may present the local cuisine and satisfy the food and accommodation of the tourist.
9: The government should monitor the prices/ rates of hotel, guesthouses and restaurants according their categories, the prices should be shown in the visible place in front of every facility.
10: The government should monitor the traffic, public vehicles and taxies fare for the easy movement of visitors within the Chitral.
There may be more suggestions and chances of improvement to employ and engage maximum number of local people in the tourism industry. There are chances to boom in the services industry that may lead to generate income and support the local economy in the coming years.
I as a Chitrali request the government authorities to take serious steps in the light of above suggestions. I also request the stakeholders of Chitral step forward for this national interest. I also request the political leaderships of Chitral to include the improvement of tourism in their manifestos in the upcoming election campaign.