The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has decided to restart flights to Swat, Skardu and Gilgit in order to promote tourism in these areas.

As per details, Pakistan’s national carrier will resume flight operations to the country’s scenic Swat valley after nearly 17 years from next week, a spokesperson for the airline said on Thursday.

According to reports, ever since Taliban militants took over Swat, tourism in the picturesque valley was badly affected with flight operations suspended. Army operations to clear out militant safe havens and improved security in recent years have allowed tourism to re-emerge on the Hindu Kush mountain range.


“PIA is going to resume flight operations to Saidu Sharif, Swat, after 17 years,” said PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan while talking to a local media outlet. The spokesperson added that Swat’s only airport, equipped to handle small ATR-70 aircraft, has been closed since 2004.

The purpose of resuming the flights now, Khan said, was “to encourage tourism in the region,” adding that “there is huge potential.”

Khan further said that two weekly flights will also operate from Lahore, with a 15 minute stopover in Islamabad.

In January 2019, Pakistan loosened travel restrictions in the hope of reviving tourism by offering visas on arrival to visitors from 50 countries and electronic visas to 175 nationalities.

Pakistan was last a prominent tourist destination in the 1970s when the “hippie trail” brought Western travellers through the apricot and walnut orchards of the Swat Valley and Kashmir on their way to India and Nepal.

Since then, deteriorating security conditions have prevented tourists and travellers from visiting the country.

A 2019 Gallup report said tourist traffic at cultural sites in Pakistan had seen an increase of 317 per cent over five years. Prince William and Kate Middleton’s five-day visit to Pakistan in October 2019 also boosted interest in the country as a tourist spot.