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Local tourists likely to flock to Northern areas as restrictions ease

ISLAMABAD – Northern areas of Pakistan are expected to draw a large number of tourists from across the country on Monday as the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has reopened tourism sector under strict anti-coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The local administrations of all the resorts along with managements of hotels and restaurants have made brisk preparations to ensure implementation of the new health guidelines issued by the NCOC for stemming the coronavirus spread amid tourists’ influx.

The NCOC—a nerve centre to synergize and articulate unified national effort against COVID-19 recently lifted the ban on tourism, it had imposed before Eid-ul-Fitr in the wake of a surge in the coronavirus cases. 

According to media reports, the new guidelines include mandatory mask-wearing by every tourist at all the destinations, use of hand-sanitizers, possession of negative coronavirus test upon arrival and national identity card, and compliance of social distancing outdoors.

The guidelines stipulated that after June 1, hotel staff would not book rooms for any person over the age of 50 years without a vaccination certificate, and after July 1, the presentation of vaccination certificate would be mandatory for every visitor over the age of 40 years.

Similarly, travellers from abroad would have to follow tests, quarantine and vaccination policy, while camping would be allowed at reasonable distance and under strict SOPs. Galyat Development Authority (GDA) Spokesman Ahsan Hameed Lone said all the preparations had been finalized to enforce the SOPs at each and every resort of the area.

He added that the GDA and local administration’s staff would be deputed in the field to ensure implementation of the guidelines round the clock. The spokesman said banners and pan flexes entailing the SOPs had been display across the Galyat to sensitize the tourists about the SOPs. A vigorous awareness campaign would also be launched shortly, he added. He said sanitization of all the hotels and restaurants had been ensured, whereas their management had been told to operate the entities at fifty per cent capacity in order to keep the coronavirus at bay. 

“We will only promote family tourism as our chief aim is to promote travel with responsibility in Galyat,” he remarked.

He said the Galyat was likely to attract a massive tourist influx as at least 23,000 vehicles were sent back from its entry point during the Eid-ul-Fitr vacations.

Sabeen, a spokesperson for Malam Jabba Ski Resort, told APP via phone that the hotel staff was fully trained to ensure implementation of the SOPs at the destination. Face masks and sanitizers would be provided to the visitors to ensure full compliance of the guidelines, she added.

She said sanitization of the resort’s rooms and a chairlift had been done to prevent the outbreak of coronavirus there.

“We will strive to ensure full adherence to the SOPs at our hotel,” said a staffer of Hotel Green Retreat, Nathiagali when contacted on mobile phone.

He said the management would promote family tourism in the area following the GDA’s instructions.    

Muhammad Rafique- General Manager of Al-Azeen Hotel at Murree said preparations were underway to open the hotel with the SOPs, adding all-out efforts would be made in that regard.

Shehroz Ahmed, a travel enthusiast from Islamabad, said he was delighted to know reopening of tourism in the country, adding his plan was to visit Murree this week.

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