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Swat Valley: A Renewed Tourist Destination

Hotels in Swat are re-opening their doors to receive tourists in areas which have previously faced violent conflict and unforgiving monsoon floods.
Located just 99 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan, Mingora is the gateway for Swat Valley tourism. Its green meadows, clear lakes, and fresh air draw visitors from all over Pakistan. However, conflict and monsoon floods have largely impeded the growth of this promising economic sector.
 
The floods washed away everything,” recounted Ameer Noshad, owner of the Abshar and Muslim Palace Hotels in Swat. “Our family was left with no place for shelter, let alone a way to earn a living.” Mr. Noshad’s family is one of the thousands of families in Swat dependent on tourism, the highest contributing sector to the economy of Swat.
 
Today, with support from the USAID Firms project, hotel owners in Swat are showing record profits and anticipating further growth in the coming years.
 
The USAID Firms project, which promotes investment, enterprise development, and job growth in Pakistan, identified the tourism industry’s potential to reinvigorate the region. Under the project's Malakand Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Recovery Assistance Program, 239 hotels in Swat received grants and in-kind assistance such as construction material, furniture, and other hotel supplies.
 
Nearly 150 partner hotels in Swat resumed regular operations in the summer of 2011 for the tourist season, which peaks in July. The occupancy rate has climbed exponentially for these hotels, and $668,000 in sales revenue has been recorded for the season, which is a substantial increase over the previous year.
 
Hotel owners also received training in hotel management practices and were provided with technical assistance in developing action plans for rehabilitation activities. Through constant mentoring and regular assessments the project has ensured that assisted hotels also maintain health and hygiene standards. In conjunction with the rehabilitation efforts, a nationwide media campaign was launched in July 2011 to help attract tourists to Swat. 
 
“Both of my hotels are once again catering to tourists and I have been able to put bread on the table for my family after several difficult years.” says Mr. Noshad. “Things are finally looking up for me and for hundreds of other hoteliers in Swat.”

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