Peshawar - Hoteliers, tourist handlers and others related to the tourism sector have complained that government authorities remain indifferent towards their problems and they did not get any assistance in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown and subsequent floods.

Speaking to The Nation here yesterday, Swat Hotels Association President Haji Zahid Khan said that the coronavirus restrictions had severely affected the valley’s hospitality industry, and the district is home to around 450 hotels besides many restaurants.

“Swat hotels industry suffered around a loss of over Rs8 billion due to the coronavirus lockdown,” he claimed. However, he said that they have not been given any compensation by the tourism authorities or other agency so far.

“Instead of giving us compensation, the government authorities are charging us fees and taxes on various heads,” he added.

He said that the hotels in Swat district have provided employment to around 1.5 million people while the employment of around 25,000 others is also related to the hotels.

He also said that SOPs were already being followed by the hotels in Swat. “Besides using masks, gloves and sanitizers, the hotels also change the bed sheets in rooms, towels and soaps in the bathrooms on a daily basis,” he added.

The floods affected various areas, and also washed away tons of trout fish in various locations of Swat. Similarly, the tourists were asked to leave the areas due to the floods.

President of Kalam Hotels Association Dr Abdul Wadood told this scribe by phone that around 10 years ago, the government had announced to set up a chairlift in the valley but that the project could not see the light of the day so far.

“Tourism Department exists in name only. We have been working in tourism sector for decades but we haven’t received any assistance from tourism authorities so far,” he added.

He also complained that the Kalam Festival used to be held annually, but that the event in the picturesque valley had not been held for the last four years. “Even if they can’t hold festivals and can’t advertise our scenic locations, what is the purpose of tourism department,” he added. He also said that government authorities also do not consult them on tourism related events and festivals.

An official of the tourism and sports department, Abdul Latif, said that more than 90,000 people of Malakand and Hazara Divisions are directly involved in tourism industry as employees for their jobs.

He denied that the Kalaam Festival was not held for the last four years, but said that it may have been delayed for a year or two only.

However, he admitted that the tourism department could not undertake the Kalaam chairlift project and it has got delayed for years, but added that the government was now planning another big project in the valley.