Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, has said that Azad Jammu and Kashmir provides immense opportunities for scenic tourism owing to the exquisite mountains, valleys, glaciers, green pastures, rivers and streams found all across this most beautiful territory.
The President made these remarks during the Pakistan Tourism Summit 2019 organized here in Islamabad to highlight the tourism potential within Pakistan. The event was also addressed by Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Muhammad Atif Khan, Senior Minister for Tourism Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fida Khan Fida, Minister Tourism Gilgit Baltistan, Abdul Khaliq Hazara, Minister Tourism Balochistan Raja Yasir, Minister Tourism Punjab, CEOs of leading hotel chains of Pakistan and leading personalities related to the tourism industry of Pakistan.
President Masood Khan has said that the tourism industry in Pakistan is still in its developing stage despite the fact that in January 2019, FORBES ranked Pakistan in the top ‘10 coolest’ places to visit in the world. The British Backpackers Society, he said, gave Pakistan the top spot in its 2018 ranking both for the “incredible” hospitality of the country and “mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s imagination”.
Masood Khan said that AJK is seeing growing number of tourists over the years as an average of 1.5 million tourists visited AJK in 2017 as compared to a just half a million tourists in 2010. The bulk of these were domestic tourists, he said.
Azad Kashmir, said President AJK, was a land of exquisite beauty, which also boasts very unique archeological and historical sites including ancient sited like Sharda, Bagsar Fort, Mangla Fort, Mughal Mosque, Ramkot, Red Fort of Muzaffarabad and also famous Sufi shrines Pir Chinasi, Khari Sharif, Darbar Baba Shadi Shaheed, Haji Pir and Sain Saheli Sarkar.
The President said that the AJK Government is focused on developing road infrastructures and modern accommodations throughout Azad Kashmir to help facilitate the tourists. He said that special efforts are being made to build theme parks, watersport parks, log huts and motels for the incoming tourists.
2019, he said, has been declared as ‘Tourism Year’ in AJK and special initiatives have been adopted by the Government to help facilitate private entrepreneurs willing to invest in the tourism industry of AJK. Means are being finalized to provide e-assistance to tourists entering AJK by offering them ‘smart card solutions’ at entry points, smartphone mobile apps and similar SMS services to help guiding them to the best tourist locations and lodging facilities. Similarly, the State Bank of Pakistan with the help of AJK banks will offer low markups loans to entrepreneurs willing to invest in the tourism sector.
Sardar Masood Khan also informed his audience that the AJK Government has throughout the years organised photo and video exhibitions, jeep rallies, tourism galas, food festivals and road shows all over Pakistan to showcase its beauty and help attract tourists to visit AJK.