Tourism-enabling infrastructure

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The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has been keenly working on a World Bank-funded project to realize the high potential the tourism sector holds for the economic growth of the province and at the same time helping protect the environment by providing for eco-friendly infrastructure.
From increased industrial activity to rapid population growth and unplanned housing both in rural and urban areas, leaving an indelible carbon footprint on the environment, the provincial government has taken up the challenge, which also has its accompanying opportunity that can be exploited for the economic prosperity and social growth of local communities on sustainable lines.
To realize the full potential of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Integrated Tourism Development Project (KITE), Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has issued directives to the Pakhtunkhwa Highways Authority (PKHA) to expedite the construction work in addition to meeting the timelines specified for various road projects, including the Swat Motorway, Dir Motorway, Dera Ismail Khan Motorway and other infrastructure projects to give a boost to the hitherto neglected tourism sector.
The WB-assisted KITE project envisages development of infrastructure, strengthening institutions with business-friendly regulations and enhances technology use. According to the World Bank, the development objective of the KITE project for Pakistan is to improve tourism-enabling infrastructure, enhance tourism assets and strengthen destination management in order to promote sustainable tourism development in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
An official statement issued by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tourism department, the tourism sector has experienced substantial growth in recent years. This is primarily due to increased security and improved accessibility. It states that over $120 million in direct revenue is generated by approximately 1.2 million domestic tourists and thousands of international tourists visiting the area annually.
Whereas increased tourism activity presents an opportunity for poverty reduction through job creation and economic growth, and enterprise development with particular emphasis on the involvement of local communities, it also increases environmental and social challenges in the area.
One of the four components of the KITE project is to strengthen and formalize the travel and tourism industry in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, for which development of public infrastructure is the key. Identifying such opportunities under the project will enable the government to mobilize the private sector investment.
The chief minister’s stated objective is to make every effort to strengthen the road infrastructure and make the province a hub for regional trade and transit.
It is worth mentioning here that the dreaded climate change has exposed the vulnerabilities of the existing infrastructure as well as the local communities inhabiting the highlands and tourist resorts of the province, which is evident from the flooding which struck the province in August and September and inflicted huge damages to whatever infrastructure existed there.
Activities like preservation of environment and waste management should be promoted at the grassroots level which calls for the involvement of the local communities, who should be provided with immediate assistance in case of an environmental emergency.