The Karakoram Mountains, primarily located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, offer excellent opportunities for adventure tourism development thanks to beautiful landscapes, diverse cultural heritage, and unique ecology. However, Pakistan's tourism industry has remained underdeveloped and faces challenges in meeting sustainable tourism goals.
Tourism accounts for roughly 10% of the world's economic activity and is one of the main income generators worldwide. Tourism also affects the local community and environment, so it is essential to undertake serious efforts to make tourism ecologically sustainable, economically viable, ethically, and socially equitable.
Many tour operators in Pakistan face challenges in delivering on sustainability due to a lack of guidance, definitive advice, and ineffective communication. Environment conservation and restoration is a nuanced subject that is difficult to replicate and explain in layman's terms. So, for an effective and efficient operational environment to work on the full potential of sustainable tourism, communication between authorities, tourists, and the community is vital.
Additionally, too often, Pakistan tour operators lack a proper plan and strategy involving the community, leading to inequality and a lack of trust. Elite groups of people from the community are often the beneficiaries, so fair income distribution is a crucial challenge. Tour operators and independent travellers need to consider the local community in regard to tour design and planning to maximize the socio-economic benefits of tourism for the community.
Currently, most tour operators are also only focused on summer season tours. This seasonality negatively affects many aspects of supply-side behaviour, including inconsistent marketing, an unreliable labor market, and all the aspects of running the operation, and contributes to overtourism at peak times.
At Beyond the Valley, our vision is to introduce the Karakoram as one of the best adventure travel destinations globally. We aim to provide exceptional adventures to a global clientele in a safe and sustainable manner, promoting the conservation of both natural and human communities.
Beyond the Valley has implemented the following core values:
- Sustainable Tourism Protocols: At Beyond the Valley (BTV), we write down the protocols of sustainable tourism and clearly define the economic responsibilities, social responsibilities, and environmental responsibilities. BTV communicates these protocols to tourists (before trips), local communities, and tourism service providers. We also coordinate with the Gilgit-Baltistan tourism department, Alpine Club of Pakistan, Environment Protection Agency (GB) and other tour operators to effectively implement these standards.
- Local Community Participation: At BTV, our founder (Mr. Umer Latif), and our lead guide (Mr. Muneer Alam) visit each destination, communicate with local community members, and connect with all stakeholders who can play a vital role in promoting sustainable tourism. We carefully engage all stakeholders in decision-making and fair income distribution to avoid inequality.
- Effective Communication: BTV effectively communicates the organization's values and sustainability protocols to all stakeholders. It is the first time in Pakistan that a tour operating company has taken serious steps towards sustainable tourism. BTV translates and communicates material related to sustainable tourism in local languages as well as in Urdu and English language.
- Tours for every season: BTV aims to create economic opportunities for local communities in the Karakoram valleys in all seasons and decrease the negative impacts of over-tourism in peak season. BTV offers tours year-round explicitly designed for each season, promoting new destinations. BTV is also actively looking to introduce adventure activities such as rock climbing, rafting, and winter sports.
Beyond the Valley offers a wide range of tours, including trekking, hard and soft adventure, and cultural journeys. To learn more about Beyond the Valley, please visit: btvadventures.com.