John Mock & Kimberley O'Neil

Executive Summary
Survey of Ecotourism Potential in the Biodiversity Project Area (Chitral and Northern Areas)

The Survey of Ecotourism Potential in the Biodiversity Project Area was conducted as a consultancy under the IUCN-Pakistan project "Maintaining Biodiversity in Pakistan with Rural Community Development". The survey focused on tourism in the high mountain regions of Pakistan (ie, Chitral district of NWFP and the Northern Areas), which is the initial focus area of the Biodiversity Project. The survey was conducted through field visits to all the valleys of these regions. Data was collected on the tourism infrastructure, and meetings were held with community representatives and with both public and private sector stakeholders in the tourism industry. Tourists were also interviewed and asked to respond to a questionnaire. The data was collected over a two-month period (August and September 1995), with additional data from the authors' previous field work.

The survey builds upon conclusions of Pakistan's National Tourism Policy and the National Conservation Strategy, which emphasize that tourism's success depends on the continued well- being of the environment, which constitutes the resource base for tourism. The survey also builds upon conclusions of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/IE), which emphasize that tourism is dependent upon the quality of the environment. The survey itself concludes that conserving and strengthening biodiversity holds the key to tourism's success, because it is biodiversity that attracts tourists in the first place.

The survey concludes that there is plenty of room for tourism growth in Chitral and the Northern Areas. Only the Baltoro Glacier, Pakistan's foremost tourist attraction, is suffering negative environmental impact from excessive use.

What is Ecotourism?

The survey concludes that the concept of Ecotourism is not understood in Pakistan, even by IUCN-Pakistan and the Biodiversity Project. Ecotourism is tourism that sustains the physical and social environment. The survey recommends that all tourism should become ecotourism. Ecotourism is different from ordinary tourism, in that ecotourism minimizes the environmental impact of tourism and also brings benefits to both local communities and the physical environment.

Environmental Codes of Conduct

The survey concludes that in order for tourism to become ecotourism the role of all stakeholders in tourism must be carefully considered. The survey recommends the development of voluntary Codes of Conduct for all sectors and stakeholders involved in tourism as the most useful way to specify the roles to be played in developing ecotourism.

The survey builds upon recommendations of UNEP/IE that voluntary Codes of Conduct should demonstrate:

  • an overall commitment to the physical and human environment;
  • acceptance of responsibility for environmental damage and corrective action where necessary;
  • rewarding of outstanding environmental performance; and
  • cooperation with other sectors and stakeholders in tourism and conservation.

The survey recommends that IUCN and the Biodiversity Project should work with all sectors and stakeholders to develop voluntary environmental Codes of Conduct. IUCN can most usefully play an overall management and coordination role in this process, and facilitate the development of voluntary Codes of Conduct by the various stakeholders themselves.


The survey recommends that IUCN broaden its conception of tourism to include the full range involving all stakeholders.

The survey identifies three main stakeholder groups in tourism:

  • Tourists; Tourists can be divided into two groups:
    • tourists travelling on fixed arranged through domestic tour operators; and
    • tourists travelling independently.

    The survey, using data from 1994, concludes that approximately 20,000 to 25,000 foreign tourists annually visit the Northern Areas and Chitral. Of these foreign tourists, 25% to 30% travel on fixed itineraries arranged through tour operators, and 70% to 75% are independent tourists.

  • Host Communities; and
  • Tourism Industry.

The tourism industry consists of two sectors:

  • Private Sector
    • tour operators
      • domestic tour operators
      • tour operators abroad
    • hotel operators
    • transport operators
    • larger NGOs that work with local communities on the environment and tourism
  • Public Sector
    • Tourism Division (of the Ministry of Sports & Tourism)
    • Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC)
    • Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)
    • Northern Areas Transport Corporation (NATCO)
    • Regional Finance Development Corporation (RDFC)
    • Northern Areas Public Works Department (NAPWD)
    • Ministry of NWFP - Construction and Works (C&W)

Resource Base

The survey presents data on the resource base for tourism, which includes the physical and social environment. The data is presented as an annexure in table form, on a valley-by-valley basis. The survey recommends this data be used to help select areas for implementation of ecotourism programs.


The survey presents data on the economics of tourism in Chitral and the Northern Areas, and quantifies the economic inputs from tourism. This data makes it possible to calculate the amount of foreign exchange Pakistan receives from tourism.

Ecotourism Activities

The survey discusses specific activities that are part of ecotourism. These include activities that conserve and strengthen the physical and social environment, as well as activities that generate income. These activities are presented on a stakeholder and sector basis.

  • Tourist Activities
    • pollution and trash control
    • cultural awareness
  • Host Community Activities
    • pollution and trash control
    • local food production and marketing
    • local handicraft production and marketing
    • alternative fuel generation and energy conservation
    • cultural festivals and museums
    • design and construction of local hotels and lodges combining traditional architecture with energy-efficient elements
  • Tourism Industry Activities
    • Ecotourism training programs
      • for domestic tour operators
        • pollution and trash control
        • erosion control
        • deforestation control
        • wildlife conservation
      • for hotel operators
        • pollution and trash control
        • energy conservation
        • promotion of local foods
    • trash clean-up programs in heavily touristed areas
    • human waste disposal systems in heavily touristed areas
    • wildlife viewing programs in accessible areas with good wildlife population

Constraints on Ecotourism

The survey identifies the following constraints, and concludes that these problems must be addressed if Pakistan wants to promote itself as an ecotourist destination.

  • trash and pollution: This is the most visible problem and the easiest to solve: pick it up and dispose of it appropriately
  • attitudes: Negative interaction between tourists and host communities should be resolved through formulation and adoption of Codes of Conduct by all stakeholders
  • education: The general level of environmental awareness of all stakeholders should be increased
  • policy and regulations: Several existing policies and regulations currently hinder ecotourism. IUCN should work closely with the Government of Pakistan to resolve these problematic issues.
  • national park identity: National parks, which could be major ecotourism attractions, need significant attention.

Marketing and Promotion of Ecotourism

The survey then considers how all the previous points affect the marketing and promotion of ecotourism. The survey points out the paradox of tourism in Pakistan: that current tourists are attracted by the lack of tourists in Pakistan. Pakistan's image is that of an unspoiled, unvisited area, in contrast to other major Himalayan tourist areas. The survey concludes that the existing forms of tourism should be improved by adoption of ecotourism principles as defined in the survey. New programs to attract new categories of tourists (e.g., luxury tourists, helicopter tourists) should not be developed at present, as they are more prone to failure and are a waste of scarce marketing and promotional resources. Tourism will grow more quickly if the current 20,000 to 25,000 foreign tourists are favorably impressed by ecotourism and biodiversity conservation, so that Pakistan's reputation as an ecotourism destination is enhanced.

The survey concludes that the key sector for ecotourism development is the private sector domestic tour operators. These businesses mediate directly between tourists, host communities, and tour operators abroad. Additionally, they respond immediately to market pressure, unlike public sector stakeholders. The responsibility for marketing ecotourism internationally should be left to these private companies.

The survey recommends that before efforts to implement and market ecotourism begin, two key things must happen:

  • Codes of Conduct for all stakeholders must be formulated and adopted; and
  • ecotourism training programs that also include villagers and porters, must be developed and implemented by tour operators.


The survey also include 10 appendices as annexures. These present detailed information to support the conclusions and recommendations in the main body of the survey. They are:

A. Environmental Codes of Conduct
B. Domestic (Pakistani) Tour Operators/Trekking Companies: a comprehensive list of addresses and telephone and fax numbers
C. Tour Operators Abroad: a comprehensive list
D. Hotel Operators (in northern Pakistan)
E. Transport Operators (in northern Pakistan)
F. Resource Base for Tourism: a valley-by-valley listing of the major physical and social features
G. Average Length of Stay: a valley-by-valley listing of the season and average length of stay for tourists
H. Protected Areas: brief descriptions of all national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and games reserves in Chitral and the Northern Areas
I. Grassroots Organizations: a listing of all local-level community-based NGOs working for conservation in Chitral and the Northern Areas
J. Observation of the 1995 K2-Concordia Baltoro Glacier Clean-up Expedition: a report to the Deputy Chief of Operations, Tourism Division, on environmental problems on the Baltoro Glacier


The authors of the survey are John Mock and Kimberley O'Neil, a husband and wife team. They are co-authors of Trekking in the Karakoram & Hindukush (Lonely Planet Publications 1996). John Mock first visited the Karakoram and Hindukush in 1977, and has made many visits since. He studied Urdu at Punjab University (Lahore) during 1981-82, and holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in South Asian Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, specializing in language and literature. His main research, for which he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship, has been in the Wakhi community in Gojal. He has worked as a consultant on the Khunjerab National Park for the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and on Hunza for the National Geographic Society USA. Kimberley O'Neil first visited South Asia in 1984 and has trekked and travelled throughout Pakistan, India, and Nepal. She has over 12 years experience in the adventure travel industry, designing and operating trekking and mountaineering trips throughout the Himalaya and Karakoram. She has worked as a consultant and computer software instructor.

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