Covid-19 and its impact on the Tourism Industry in Gilgit-Baltistan
Covid-19 has inversely impacted the tourism industry in Gilgit-Baltistan. As a result, it has negatively impacted the economy of the region. Almost 70% of the locals are dependent on tourism for their income. People have constructed hotels, restaurants, guest houses, shops and created their businesses affiliated with the tourism industry.
Unfortunately, the recent pandemic has seriously affected the tourism industry, as people were confined to their homes because of lockdowns. The world has accepted the new normal but people are still scared of visiting tourist places because of Covid-19 and it has inversely impacted the tourism industry and the people affiliated with it.
Local business and economy affected by Covid-19
There are a number of aspects that have got affected by the recent pandemic. The tourism industry is the topmost sector that has suffered due to Covid-19 because in GB most of the people rely on tourism for their income and they do not have any other source to earn money.
Moreover, there is not much agricultural land that could be cultivated and generate a source of income from it or support their families. People are linked with tourism through hoteling transport etc. The lockdown due to Covid-19 has halted everything, including the tourism industry. Because of it, people are suffering from an economic crisis.
By 2020, before the pandemic people were expecting that tourism will be at its peak in GB, and people were fully prepared for that. The hotel industry, transport industry, small shops, restaurant, they all have invested on their businesses. The locals were expecting more from it but because of Covid-19, the tourism industry has greatly agonized. People have avoided going outside and the government has also implemented restrictions on people to go outside. International flights were also restricted and domestic tourists were also not allowed to visit GB. Thus, the economy of GB has got affected by the Covid-19, and the tourism industry is the only industry that has provided income-generating opportunities for the local people.
There is no other industry except the tourism industry in GB. Every person and every business is affiliated with tourism. Tourism is an important source of income for the people and it is considered as the backbone for their business and economy of the region. The recent government was also eager to work for the development of tourism in the area but because of the global pandemic COVID-19, the tourism industry has affected a lot and the people affiliated with this are facing problems.
The locals have taken loans for their businesses
The people in GB are dependent on tourism for their economic gains. People have taken loans from banks and societies and have contracted hotels, guest houses, and markets. If there will be no tourism and people will not visit the area then it is obvious that their hotels, guest houses, and markets will be closed for more time, it will be difficult for them to returns the loans taken from the banks and societies.
Thus, it is the biggest problem the locals have faced and are still facing and they are worried about it. For the last two to three years people saw that tourism has many benefits, especially the hotel industry. Most of the people take loans to constructed hotels, restaurants and invested in the tourism sector, after investing in this sector, the prohibition on tourism due to covid-19 has impacted them negatively.
They have taken loans from banks and societies to constructs hotels, shops, and restaurants for their business. They have to return the loans with interest. This will have a negative impact on their lifestyle. The result and expectations they have from tourism did not pay off because of Covid-19. Not only big hotels but small business like shops etc. has also suffered from this pandemic. International tourists who have advance booked hotels were canceled and the hotel industry has become zero.
The tourism industry has greatly predisposed by Covid-19, by following proper safety measures and guiding the tourists as well as the locals, and advising them to properly follow the SOPs can overcome this issue. The tourism industry has been affected by COVID- 19 but it can be opened by following proper SOPs.
If people will follow the expected SOPs and open tourism in GB then it will not do any harm because tourism has been opened in other countries as well. Covid-19 is not going anywhere; it is on people that how they can protect themselves and others from it by properly following the SOPs. It is the responsibility of everyone to take care of the social distancing mechanism and wear masks, then opening the tourism industry has no harm at all.
Written by Nahida Kharim