In a world that has been turned upside down and destroyed by the Covid 19 pandemic, the tourism industry seems to have suffered the worst blow since 1945. While the number of coronavirus cases in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was still low, the emerging tourism industry in the province appears to be in a doldrums.
Tourists now have to wait for the corona virus to settle before enjoying the scenic view from their Swat Valley hotels, a place that the Pakistani army has recaptured after a protracted battle with insurgents.
The valley, which has recently become known for the almost fatal shooting of activist Malala Yousafzai, has been estimated to have a group of 400 hotels that employ over 23,000 workers. But the raging fear of the corona virus has forced owners to close these properties and has taken tens of thousands of hotel employees on leave. According to an expert from the tourism industry, Swat had a monthly profit of Rs 0.6 million until January.
With international travel restricted and domestic travelers forced to stay at home in most cities in Pakistan, hotel owners had no choice but to close the property.
“Swat always has visitors from all over Pakistan. But we haven’t seen any visitors in the last few days, the streets are empty, ”said Zahid Khan, President of the Hotel Association in Swat.
Swat is a lush valley that was once preferred by honeymooners and is nicknamed “Switzerland of South Asia”. Today it resembles a ghost town.
Khan said business in the valley came to a standstill as the world tried to contain the corona virus. “Not everyone in Swat owns a hotel. Much of the population makes a living from services to hotels in the valley, ”said Khan.
Khan recalled the uprising that swept the picturesque valley a few years ago and said, “The last time they closed hotels was against militants.”
“Our fight against terrorism had a known enemy. Coronavirus is an invisible enemy, ”Khan quipped, adding that the pandemic had triggered fear.
After the outbreak of the corona virus, which killed more than 10,000 people, K-P also lost hope of making the most of the upcoming religious tourism event in the province.
K-P was full of sacred Buddhist, Hindu, and Sikhist sites, and hoped to make the most of religious tourism events in the province. But panic and fear forced the provincial government to postpone one of the biggest events, the Gandhara Festival.
The four-day event, which is intended to give an insight into the cultural heritage sites of K-P, was intended to bring more than 60 international delegates and many pilgrims to the province.
“Since the world was full of panic and fear, we had no choice but to postpone the event indefinitely,” said an official from the Archeology Department.
The official was optimistic and said: “The event will take place as soon as the pandemic subsides.”
According to Dr. Abdul Samad, director of archeology and museums, the festival events should take place throughout the provincial capital.
The opening event, a flagship project of the K-P government, is extremely important to put the province back on the tourism map. “This would have brought scientists, academics and individuals from all walks of life to K-P.”
While the final impact is currently difficult to predict given the fluid situation, officials at K-P’s tourism department believe that once the virus is defeated, it can revitalize the industry.