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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said with Pakistan having the most beautiful and undiscovered tourist sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Northern Areas, there was a need to explore and promote the huge untapped tourism potential, including mountain tourism.

Switzerland, which is just half of KP in terms of area, is earning $80 billion per annum through skiing alone, whereas Pakistan's annual exports are of around $25 billion, he added.

The prime minister was addressing the launching and partnership signing ceremony of 'Travel Responsibility for Experiencing Eco Tourism (TREK)' here between the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, World Bank and Nestle Pakistan.

TREK initiative includes collaboration for awareness campaigns on responsible tourism, waste collection, management and recycling activities. The initiative is aimed at promoting ecotourism whereby environmental protection of tourism sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be ensured.

Imran Khan, while congratulating KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan for taking lead, said the promotion of tourism especially eco-tourism would not only help the country achieve enhanced economic development but would create more employment opportunities for local population.

He said unfortunately the country's tourist sites, including those of Naran and Nathiagali, were damaged due to unplanned tourism and constructions.

The prime minister, however said that he believed that the TREK initiative, under byelaws for environmental protection, would help protect the beautiful tourist sites like the Kumrat Valley.

The installation of a cable car at the Kumrat Valley would not only add to the beauty of area but would also help attract more tourists, he added.

Imran Khan said unlike Pakistan, where permanent concrete structures were built at beautiful tourist locations, moveable structures were made at various tourist resorts in the world, including Kenya Safari Park to protect the environment.

The prime minister said the initiatives like TREK would also encourage the local people to take care of the tourist areas in terms of cleanliness and protection of natural beauty from pollution.

He referred to the government's initiative of protecting the wildlife habitat, including ibex in Chitral, and said due to the government's efforts the preservation of ibex had been ensured for the protection of wildlife habitat as well as for the benefit of local community.

The prime minister said owing to the government's policy of promoting tourism, there was a historic increase in tourism, especially local tourism and a large number of people were seen rushing to the KP and Northern Areas in summer and winter seasons alike.

He said mobile phones were contributing a lot in promoting tourism in the country, as tourists often used the social media, including Facebook to post their pictures at beautiful scenic and tourist sites.

The prime minister while constructing roads, hotels or any other buildings in the country's tourist sites and areas, the protection of environment should be specially taken care of.-APP

A press release adds: Speaking on the occasion, Najy Benhassine, Country Director for World Bank Group (WBG), Pakistan said, "The WBG is keen to continue supporting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab in their efforts to provide employment opportunities to the youth in the tourism sector. Today marks the beginning of an important partnership with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and private sector and we expect to see more corporates stepping forward to contribute towards responsible tourism across the country. The growth and job creation potential of this sector is massive".

Highlighting Nestlé's initiative in the project, Samer Chedid, CEO, Nestlé Pakistan said, "As part of our vision for a waste-free future, we are accelerating our actions to tackle plastic waste and our partnership with WBG & KP government is a step in that direction. We will be driving new behavior and understanding through community engagement, cleanup activities, trainings and connecting waste recycling companies with the local administration."

Earlier, KITE and Economic Revitalization of KP (ERKP) project contributed 2 excavators, 6 garbage compactors, 4 dumper trucks, more than 300 dustbins for disposing, collecting and removing waste in the jurisdiction of the Galyat Development Authority, Kaghan Development Authority and Kalam's relevant authority.-PR

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