Managing Tourist Traffic 101
In the recent Eid holidays, the Northern areas of Pakistan were a hotbed for local tourism. Murree, Naran, and Swat were all swarmed with thousands of cars every day and problems ensued due to these areas not being able to handle such an influx.
Roads were blocked for days and it was advised that no more people enter these areas for around ten days to ease the rush. This was also damaging for the environment because where there are cars there is pollution. This kind of situation needs to be prevented in the future and solid measures must be taken to facilitate tourism without damaging the environment.
Contributing Factors to the Issue
With the rising population of Pakistan, the burden on holiday destinations has increased naturally. In addition, the standard of living of most families has gone up, leading to a higher demand for tourism. The improved security situation in the Northern Areas has drastically increased tourist activity there because people can appreciate their beauty without any fear. There has also been development and commercial activity in these areas making them accessible and making tourism manageable.
At the first glance, all of this seems to be quite positive, but it must be remembered that this tourism does have a huge impact on the environment and lifestyle of the destinations themselves. The increased traffic and infrastructure development has a detrimental impact on the pristine surroundings of places such as Murree, Hunza, and Swat. Deforestation is a direct form of destruction that takes place due to development targeted at tourism.
The fumes created by the continuously running vehicles on the roads leading to tourist destinations also have an extremely negative impact on the pure environment of these areas. If this continues, then these places shall become overcrowded and overbuilt. This is detrimental for the tourism industry itself as these areas will lose their appeal if damaged in this way. Hence, measures need to be taken to improve this situation as soon as possible.
Walking in the right direction?
Tourism traffic management and conservation should be used to fix this situation and prevent it from happening in the future as well. The stakeholders for these measures can be the government, private companies, the tourists, and the locals themselves.
First of all, in the short term, a quota system needs to be introduced. Only a limited amount of cars should be allowed into these destinations in certain seasons like Eid holidays or long weekends. This shall prevent deadlocks like the one in Murree this Eid, with 40,000 cars being present in the hill station and roads blocked for miles. This sort of blockage is counterintuitive to the actual purpose of a vacation, which is to relax, unwind, and enjoy. A limit on vehicles in these areas, with an allocated number of days, needs to be implemented to prevent such overcrowding. These quotas and days can be announced through news channels and the internet quite effectively.
Tourism traffic management is highly needed in Pakistan due to the rapidly increasing number of tourists, both local and foreign. It can provide strategies for improved transport, integrate alternative transport, and provide disincentives for private vehicles.
A viable solution to the traffic problem in tourist destinations is the banning of private vehicles beyond a certain area where people can park. After this area, transport should be provided to shuttle the tourists from the parking area to the actual destination. This can be in the form of a railway or a tram system. Whatever the system, it should be regular and high quality with low fare. This will control the inflow of traffic into tourist areas.
Within the destinations, alternate transport such as bicycle rentals and shuttle services should be provided. There should be demarcated areas only for pedestrians and facilities for the handicapped should be there as well.
Another method to prevent the destruction of the pristine surroundings of the Northern areas is the implementation of restrictions on construction. These areas are known for their natural beauty and overbuilding there leads to them losing their attraction and being affected by pollution. Deforestation should not be permitted for more construction beyond a certain sustainable level.
Tourist destinations are experiencing a lot of development and commercial activity. However, this should not be at the cost of nature. The forest area of these places should be preserved and the local wildlife not harmed to make way for tourists. Areas, where there are animal habitats, should be off-limits for any construction activity. Instead, tourist activities should be integrated with these natural attractions.
A major issue which is emerging in Pakistan’s tourism is the concentration of tourists in just a few areas such as Murree, Swat, and Naran. This is because these places are developed more than other outlying areas. This leads to traffic congestion and pollution in these places and is detrimental for them. In addition, it puts a heavy burden of construction on these areas. As evidenced by Zameen.com, these areas are an attraction for investors buying land and buildings for various purposes. Development up to a certain extent is excellent, but beyond that, it becomes unsustainable.
A way to counteract this is to also develop surrounding areas to an extent so that tourists are not concentrated in just one place. In this way, the locals also benefit greatly. Infrastructure and accommodation etc. should be provided in these smaller destinations for this strategy to be properly implemented.
With these measures, there should also be regulations in place which preserve the cleanliness and purity of these destinations. Littering and any damage to nature should be heavily fined and vehicles which emit high levels of exhaust should be penalized as well. This requires a proper regulatory body in place to ensure that the sanctity and culture of tourist destinations be preserved.
In conclusion, the rise of tourism is an encouraging development for Pakistan’s economy and reputation, but it should not be at the cost of nature and sustainability. Hence, to control the traffic and pollution generated by heavy tourism, measures need to be taken and properly implemented.