Lakeshore City

Promoting Responsible Tourism in Northern Areas of Pakistan

November 30, 2023

Growing up, Muhammad Numan thought the tourist destinations of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were cleaner and had a  more natural environment. But as time passed and tourism increased, the local landscape he once knew began to change. The influx of tourists has increased the piles of trash in the picturesque northern region.

The total contribution of the travel and tourism sector to Pakistan’s GDP in 2022 was 5.9 percent, and the number of jobs was 4.2 million. This could be better, considering the variety of tourist attractions nationwide.

Pakistan is expected to attract around $16 billion in tourist spending in 2022, rising to around $30 billion in 2033. Pakistan experienced an unprecedented surge in domestic tourists immediately after lifting coronavirus travel restrictions. For example, in 2021 and 2022, more than 1.2 million domestic and international tourists alone visited the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Local governments, communities, and the private sector must focus on green and inclusive tourism to manage increasing tourist flows throughout the year while harnessing underappreciated economic potential.

We need resources, equipment, and training without losing them. Numan, who currently works as a manager at a local hotel in the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was determined to make a difference and was looking for ways to reduce the negative impact of the tourism industry on the ecosystem.

He is the founder of the Responsible Travel for Ecotourism Experiences in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (TREK) initiative, a partnership between the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Lakeshore City (LSC), and Nestlé Pakistan that promotes and supports responsible tourism initiatives.

I met TREK, which complements the ongoing activities of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Integrated Tourism Development Project (KITE), a cultural heritage protection and tourism infrastructure development project. Since 2020, the company has been conducting awareness campaigns for tourists and training on waste management for local communities and catering facilities.

TREK has trained over 650 participants from over 150 hotels and restaurants in tourist destinations of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Beneficiaries include communities, local authorities, and scientists in Peshawar, Natiagali, Abbottabad, Swat, Naran and Chitral districts.

These trainings focused on solid waste minimization, separation, management, and recycling techniques. Public messages on responsible tourism were also disseminated through social media and radio campaigns in Khyber Pakhtankhwa, Islamabad, and Lahore.

Since most of the domestic tourists are concentrated in these areas, they will be able to get information through the tourist helpline about the importance of keeping the area free of litter 10,000 reusable bags were distributed to tourist and tourist attraction hotel associations to promote their use and minimize waste.

In parallel, the IDA-funded KITE project will provide garbage bins, garbage collection, and compaction machinery to municipalities in Natiagali, Naran, Chitral, and Kumrat districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and some areas of Punjab province, providing 50 A tourist information board was installed. Complement awareness campaigns. Like several other participants, Mr.Numan learned from these sessions and implemented green practices in his hotel.

He also leads community-funded clean-up efforts in his local Mardan district.TREK has motivated partners to participate in impactful activities by fostering collaboration with the private sector.

Nestlé Pakistan, a partner in this initiative,  is taking concrete steps to create a circular system that facilitates the collection, recycling, and reuse of plastic-based products.

The company is working on designing its plastic packaging to be 100% recyclable and expects to reach its 95% goal by 2025. The Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is dedicating resources and supporting its team to work with the private sector to ensure green and inclusive destination management. The project also provided snow plows and waste disposal equipment to local governments to improve accessibility and traffic flow and promote sustainable tourism in the state.

TREK is characterized by inclusivity, inviting participants from diverse backgrounds, including women, youth, and the transgender community. Zareen Akhtar, a social worker and human rights activist who completed TREK training, testified to the program’s transformative impact.

She recognized her new knowledge and was eager to share it with others. She emphasized that she is one of the many women in the region who has had the opportunity to participate in these trainings.

Initiatives like TREK include: “Women’s participation not only has a broader social impact but also creates a profound shift in local thinking and enables a unified consciousness in the social fabric of a community.” has the power to change the tourism industry. Preserve landscapes in some of Pakistan’s most pristine places so that future generations can continue to enjoy them for years.

In the next phase, TREK will begin activities to integrate more actors from the country’s private and financial sectors and support the mobilization of investments for community empowerment and job creation.

This initiative has evolved into a community-led initiative, with residents actively participating in regular cleaning events. A sustainable transformation like this embodies what TREK envisions for communities across the state and beyond.

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