Lahore, Pakistan – Tourist guide Adil Lahorei was told by his Eastern European clients that it was time to head north immediately as temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius in the Punjab state capital.
Pakistan experienced its hottest April in 61 years in May. March was the ninth driest since 1961. The heat wave meant that the traditional spring in Lahore was already beginning to give off elements of peak summer.
“Usually itinerary for foreign tourists includes staying in Lahore for a few days,” Adil told Al Jazeera. “Some even head to the southern parts of the Punjab and then leave north after a week or so. But this year, the guests who arrived in April and even in March wanted to immediately leave for the mountains.”
Pakistani authorities have warned that temperatures up to nine degrees Celsius above normal are expected. As a result, Lahore’s tourism industry, which until the end of May was blamed for the arrival of foreign visitors, was shell-shocked.
While rising temperatures have pushed visitors out of Lahore, they are increasingly attracted to the north, not only because of the cooler weather, but also because glaciers are melting at the start of the season, which means tourist attractions are reopening faster than usual. When passes such as Babusar, Deosai and Khunjerab become passable, countless lakes, parks and other scenic spots become accessible to tourists.
“It used to be unheard of for the Khunjerab pass to be open at this time of the year. But due to global warming, the tourist season for the northern regions starts earlier. Meanwhile, I only have one travel request for Lahore for the summer,” Adil said.
Knockout punch for Pakistan
Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, located 25 km (15 miles) from the Indian border, has been a cultural hub for centuries, and its architectural heritage has been held in high esteem by the British and Mughals among the many rulers who ruled over this much coveted land. . However, the long-standing desire of travelers from all over the world to explore Lahore’s rich history has faced one crisis after another.
Since the September 11 attacks on the United States, the city, like the rest of the country, has come under a wave of deadly attacks. After the nationwide hostilities, some semblance of security returned, which led to an influx of tourists.
“Tourism started to grow in Pakistan and especially in Lahore at the end of the last decade. But then COVID-19 broke out,” Adil said.
While the global tourism industry has been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, it has been another knockout blow for Pakistan, which has just begun its recovery. Despite the country’s relative success in fighting COVID-19, the pandemic has also been a wake-up call for Lahore’s climate.