SWAT – All the six districts of Malakand division have witnessed massive influx of foreign and domestic tourists during week long Eid holidays following an opening of multi-faceted Swat Expressway to enjoy its pleasant and cool weather conditions.
The scenic hilly areas and tourism resorts in Malakand division including Swat, Dir Upper, Dir Lower, Chitral, Shangla and Buner have attracted tourists in droves from plain areas of Pakistan mostly from Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Punjab provinces after the distance between Malakand division and Islamabad was cut short to only two and half hours following an opening of 81-kilometer long Swat Expressway before Eidul Fitr on the directives of Chief Minister Mahmood Khan.
The four-lane fenced Swat Expressway commences from Karnal Sher Interchange in Swabi district on Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway (M-I) and concludes at Chakdara in Dir Lower district after passing through 21 bridges and 1300 meters twin tunnels on National Highway N-45, inter-connecting Swat, Chitral, Dir Upper, Dir Lower, Shangla, Buner, Mohmand and Bajaur districts with rest of the country.
Former KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had performed the ground-breaking of Swat Expressway on August 25, 2016 to provide an extra and fast track communication facilities to hundreds of thousands of travellers visiting this part of the country on daily basis.
The Expressway brought massive surge in tourists at scenic Kalam, Malam Jabba, Maho Dhand, Fizagut, Maidan, Bahrain in Swat, Pir Baba in Buner, Komrat in Dir, Shangla and Chitral where finding a room in hotels, restaurants and rest houses for staying alongwith families was highly a challenging task these days.
Kalam has remained main centre of attraction of tourists due to its cool weather and pleasant climate where tourists from AJK, Punjab, KP and Gilgit Baltistan were seen in droves. They enjoyed waterfalls, lush green valleys, meadows, snow-covered peaks, water boating, horse and camel ridings in a very pleasant atmosphere.
Located on River Swat some 99 kilometers of Mingora Swat, Kalam’s scenic areas Matiltan, Usho, Utror, Gabral and Mohodhand lake saw tourists of all social class during Eid vacations where low income groups stayed at makeshift hotels, tents and rooms of houses vacated by local people earning great profits. “I came from Nowshera alongwith my friends to enjoy Eid vacations at Kalam due to its pleasant and cool weather to beat the scorching heat,” Zeeshan Khan, 25, a tourist told APP.
“The weather of Kalam is very pleasant and tourists can come here to enjoy its natural waterfalls, lakes and snow covered mountains peaks in a safe atmosphere,” he said.
Malam Jabba, the country’s lone skiing resort in Swat district has attracted influx of tourists with families enjoyed chair-lift ride. ‘I came to Malam Jabba after visiting Kalam to enjoy Eid holidays in a pleasant weather,” Haseeb Khan, a resident of Peshawar told APP.
“I enjoyed ride an imported chairlift at Malam Jabba as it was very comfortable, safe and tourists must come here to enjoy its natural beauty, lush green valleys and chairlift ride,” he said. However, he complained over high prices being charged by private hotels, restaurants and shopkeepers that needed to be checked by the district administration and proper arrangements should be made for car parking in famous tourists destinations to avoid traffic jams.
Haseeb said that private hotels are charging Rs 6,000-10,000 per room per night stay from families at Kalam and demanded strong actions against profiteers.
Officials in Tourism Corporation KP told APP that the massive surge in domestic tourists in Northern KP was possible due to improved communication facilities in all tourists’ areas of the province.
Under Kalam Beautification Project, conditions of access roads in Kalam were improved besides establishment of children playing areas and other facilities in tourist destinations.
Chairlift at Malam Jabba, which was destroyed during militancy in 2008-09, has been reconstructed and opened for tourists, adding,that the newly reconstructed chairlift has been imported and safe in all aspects.
Four Camping Pods, an eco-tourism friendly project of previous PTI Government, were established at Thandyani at Abbottabad, Shahran at Manshera, Bishigram at Swat and Yakhtangi in Shangla to expend tourism and reduce load on other established tourists resorts in the province.
TCKP rest houses, private tour operators, hotels, motels and guest houses have received record booking orders from domestic tourists on Eid that showed unshakable trust of tourists and people in the policies of KP Government, the official said.
Haseeb said that PTI Government has brought massive improvement in tourism sector by enhancing facilities for tourists in all tourists areas of Khyber Pakthunkhwa and thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for completion of scores of mega projects in tourism and other important sectors that made KP a hub of tourism.
He said that significant improvement of law and order situation has immensely contributed to this massive surge in domestic tourism in Malakand division where number of tourists would touch new heights due to completion of Swat Expressway by opening up all remote and inaccessible areas through enhanced regional connectivity for local and foreign tourists, mountaineers and nature lovers.
The TCKP official said that more than 20 new tourists sites mostly in Hazara and Malakand divisions were identified that would be linked with the Swat Expressway and Hazara Motorway to reduce load on existing tourists sites.