Hunza is one of the most beautiful places in the world. There are apricot and other fuit orchards that you would love to visit. They usually allow you to have fresh fruit from the trees. If you want scenic beauty you should visit Deosai plains. Want to see the roof of the world trekking in the Karakoram is the answer. Want to have ultimate adventure go for tours offering biking, rafting, paragliding and mountain climbing opportunities.

Tour operator Umar spoke with enthusiasm as two couples and some young people who like scores of others had come to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry to attend the three-day Karakoram Festival. Families of businessmen, media and also fromt the general public took keen interest in the festival. Stalls of tour operators and companies selling mountain climbing gear had been set up in the Racecourse Park. A lot of people who come to the park daily for walk also attended the festival. One reason could be that the people of Gilgit Baltistan look different from Punjabis and locals here were inquisitive about the event.

The festival had been organised to mark the 60th anniversary of the K2 first ascent by Italian Expedition in 1954. The LCCI and the Social, Economic and Environmental Development project under the framework of the Pakistan Italian Debt-for-Development Swap Agreement and Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab and World Wide Fund for Nature collaborated for the promotion of domestic and international tourism and trekking expeditions to different parts of Gilgit-Baltistan especially to the K2 and surrounding areas and the Central Karakoram National Park.

With strong cool breeze blowing in their faces the young Lahoris listened to tour operator Umar who talked about the enchanting land of Karakoram and how it largely remains unexplored by majority of Pakistanis. “It is the perfect holiday destination. You spend a lot more if you go to Europe or Far East. You can have all kind of outdoor activities. It is an ideal destination for families and young people. We hope that a lot of people from Lahore who go for holidays in northern areas or abroad should visit Gilgit Baltistan and have fun of their lifetim,” the tour operator said enthusiastically. It remains to be seen how the local tourism may flourish upcountry in the land of Gilgit Baltistan. Such a step would boost the economy as well.

As we took a round of the stalls that had been set up traditional music of Gilgit-Baltistan could be heard in the background. Colourful camping tents, photographs of snowcapped mountains, gems, GB food delicacies and enthralling tunes gave the venue the look of a carnival. There were about 40 stalls that offered a wide range of products from Gilgit-Baltistan. From local crafts to gems and stones to tools for mountaineers each stall has something informative to offer. Apricot cooking oil, apricot massage oil, facial and other organic products were the most popular items sold. Dried apricot and mulberry fruit were also items that Lahoris loved to buy. Creams, scrubs and different kinds of facial lotions prepared from natural sources were popular items of purchase among the ladies.

The Karakoram International University stall displayed products such as wooden utensils being used in Gilgit Baltistan for centuries, gems and their process of cutting and polishing. A segment of the stall showed safe mining methods and objects related to it.

The Alpine Club of Pakistan had also set up its stall. The club is known for facilitation in big expeditions by mountaineers such as scaling of K2 or Everest. Gear for climbers, shoes and T shirts depicting Gilgit Baltistan were on sale.

The heart-touching tunes of an age-old music instrument was mesmerising as a 10-member group performed. The photo exhibition in which photographs by researcher and scientist Filippo De Filippi titled ‘Rediscovering the Abode of Snow’ was keenly watched by visitors.

The LCCI President Engineer Sohail Lashari speaking at the festival said that lack of proper infrastructure was hitting hard some of the finest tourists sites therefore the government would have to divert its attention towards these areas. He said that in today’s world when all types of technology is available, there must not be any problems for international tourists to get easy access to all areas. He said that Gilgit-Baltistan has huge potential but it could not be tapped so far only because of unavailability of good road network.

The LCCI president said that tourism is a billion dollar industry and has played a very vital role in the economic well being many of countries that have no other industry. He said that it was not the developed world but a number of other countries including Nepal are taking full advantage of their tourism potential.

Engineer Sohail Lashari said that Pakistan could earn billions of dollars by highlighting its tourism potential in the outer world. He said that the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry would continue to work for the promotion of this segment of the economy.

The LCCI president said that Pakistani Ambassadors working abroad should be tasked to contact tourism related organizations for highlighting the tourists sites in Pakistan.

The event held to promote sustainable tourism, culture and heritage of Gilgit-Baltistan was a huge success as people continued to visit the LCCI to participate in the festival. It is hoped it evoked enough interest among the people to plan their holidays this year in Gilgit Baltistan.