Mountain climber attack could end Pakistan tourism
The killings in what was considered a safe part of the country could be the 'fatal blow' to a once-thriving industry.
A deadly attack over the weekend on a group of foreign mountain climbers in Pakistan has had more than the expected geopolitical repercussions. It's also another blow to Pakistan's troubled economy and fading tourism sector.
At least nine foreigners, including an American, were killed Saturday at the base camp of Pakistan's Nanga Parbat -- the world's ninth-tallest mountain and part of the Himalayan range. A local faction of the Taliban claimed culpability and said the assault was in revenge for recent drone attacks in Pakistan.
The BBC reports that all expeditions on Nanga Parbat have been halted. And Naiknam Karim, with the Pakistan Association of Tour Operators, said the attacks are a "disaster" for the country's Gilgit-Baltistan region, which was previously considered safe and where tourism is the main source of income.
Karim told Agence France-Press that before 9/11, more than 20,000 foreigners visited the region annually to climb and trek, spending of thousands and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars. But those numbers have since fallen to about 5,000 a year.
"Pakistan was earning a huge amount from mountaineering teams," Sultan Khan, who manages expeditions for foreign mountaineers, told AFP, "and the financial losses will run into millions of dollars if teams stop coming to Pakistan."
Despite the country's dangerous reputation, Pakistan's tourism industry had been growing in recent years and brought in $350 million in 2011. Pakistan's towering mountains and alpine scenery continued to draw visitors and climbing expeditions.
But Manzoor Hussain, the president of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, told Reuters that Saturday's attack was a "fatal blow" to efforts to attract more climbers and tourists to the region.
"I haven't slept since yesterday. It's a very sad situation," Ghulam Muhammed told the wire service. Muhammed's company, Blue Sky Treks and Tours, worked with five of the climbers killed in Saturday's attack.
"I am very worried, now business is finished, today two or three have canceled, it is difficult now," he added. "In Gilgit-Baltistan, a lot of the economy is from tourism -- the money goes to transporters, hotels, markets, porters, guides and cooks."
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