The Pakistan government has received more than 800 applications from adventure tourists across the world and is expected to welcome at least 500 trekkers and mountaineers this summer season.
“So far, 22 applicants have been issued permits to visit the northern areas for adventure tourism. The visa processing time has to be speedy to allow more foreign tourists to visit Pakistan for trekking and climbing activities,” as per an official in the tourism department of Gilgit-Baltistan.
During a meeting held on Saturday, a senior official said that the concern of delay in visa processing time was raised and informed to all stakeholders. Emphasis was made to reduce the visa processing time and it should not take more than 10 days instead of one to two months during which adventure tourists either lose interest or change their travel plans and move to other attractive destinations in other countries.
“All applications are forwarded to security agencies which give clearances before visas could be issued to trekkers and climbers planning to visit the northern areas,” the official remarked.
The Skardu airport has been upgraded to international standards to handle the first international flight, Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) Secretary Karrar Haidri told the media, adding, “We were looking forward to GB becoming the hub of the international tourist destination.”
Moreover, to welcome the first-ever international flight to the stunning city of snow-capped peaks and high-altitude desert, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had asked all concerned departments and institutions to complete and furnish all essential arrangements and formalities.
Mr. Haidri stated that Pakistan needed to welcome international adventure tourists like Nepal where a flight full of commuters landed every 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Tour Operators Association Joint Secretary Mohammad Umar requested that visa processing of foreign tourists should be reduced to 15 days minimum to four weeks maximum. “Often applications are left pending for weeks,” Mr.Umar complained.
“In many popular destinations, foreigners enjoy peace of mind and roam freely without worrying about bureaucratic hurdles. After a visa is issued, there should be no more hurdles, especially after the tourist has landed,” he added.