PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has exempted foreign tourists from the ban imposed on tourism activities and travelling from May 8 to May 16 due to alarming situation of Covid-19 pandemic.

Latifur Rehman, the spokesman for tourism department, told Dawn that visit of foreign tourists to different areas of the province and Gilgit-Baltistan was already scheduled that was why they were exempted from the ban.

“The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is pleased to exempt foreign tourists/foreign tour groups from the ban imposed on tourism and travel from 8th to 16th of May,” says a notification issued by the tourism department.

The notification states that tour operators and hoteliers catering to these individuals should ensure standard operating procedure for Covid-19 and negative PCR tests of these foreign tourists and tourism workforce, keeping health, safety and security as foremost priority.

It is pertinent to mention here that on May 1, the provincial government decided to close all business activities and enforce a complete ban on travel on the occasion of Eidul Fitr with effect from May 8 to May 16 due to alarming situation of Covid-19 pandemic. However, the essential services were exempted from these restrictions.

Tourists from several countries scheduled to visit places in KP and GB

Sources in the home department told Dawn that tourists from several countries had already taken permission from the government for visit to different areas of the province prior to imposition of the ban.

They said that such tourists either reached the province or they were on way to their destinations. How the tourists would stay there if all hotels and rest houses were closed due to the pandemic, they questioned.

Tourists from Italy, Ukraine, Belarus, Canada, the United States, the Netherland, Poland and Germany would visit different areas of the province and Gilgit-Baltistan during the lockdown, sources said.

The tourism department has also shared the list of the tourists and tour operators with the provincial home department to provide them security and fulfil their other needs.

“Kindly communicate this information to the administration of the respective districts for further necessary action to facilitate these foreign tourists during their mobility and stay,” says a letter sent by Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation to the provincial home department.

The spokesman for tourism department said that government also directed the deputy commissioners in Malakand and Hazara divisions to make proper arrangements for provision of food to the tourists during the lockdown as all hotels and restaurants would be closed.

Now the foreign tourists will be free to visit Kalash valleys of Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur to participate in the five-day Kalash spring festival Chilimjusht, which is scheduled to be started on May 12.

Besides foreign visitors, the spokesman said, only people of Kalash community and locals would be allowed to participate in the festival while visitors from rest of the country would not attend the festival owing to the restrictions imposed in the wake of the pandemic.

On May 1, the government had notified that there would be complete ban on tourism activities from May 8 to May 16. All tourist resorts, public parks and hotels at the tourist spots would be closed, it had said.

Similarly, all tourist resorts, public parks, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and transport would remain closed.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2021

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