Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Air Marshal Arshad Malik has said that the national flag carrier operated six flights to Skardu on Saturday for the first time in history. In a tweet, the CEO said, “Another historic first for the national flag carrier. Operated 6 flights to Skardu in a day, first time in aviation history.” He said that PIA stays committed to promoting tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan, one of the most beautiful places in the universe. He thanked the government of Pakistan, the Ministry of Aviation and local administration for support. In a historic development, PIA has launched the largest flight operation to the northern areas as global travel restrictions, stemming from Covid-19, forced the affluent Pakistanis to explore local tourist sites. “The national flag carrier has launched special flights for the tourists visiting the country’s northern areas during Eid days,” PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan said. Although bad weather over the past few days affected the flight schedule for the north, yet the airline managed to ramp up the number of flights to the highest-ever level, he said. He pointed out that the national flag carrier operated six flights to Skardu on Saturday alone. He elaborated that two planes to the city would fly from Karachi, one from Lahore, one from Sialkot, one from Faisalabad and one would be air safari. The air safari flight took off from Islamabad and flew over the snow-capped peaks of K2 and Nanga Parbat as well as Saiful Malook Lake. Apart from the regular operation, two additional flights departed from Islamabad to Gilgit, he revealed. “The purpose of special flights is to facilitate the movement of tourists. PIA is taking special measures to promote tourism in the northern region,” he said. Citing figures, he added that the air carrier transported 34,000 passengers to and from Skardu in the past two and a half months. Tourism in the northern region has grown by three to four times over the past few months. Gilgit-Baltistan alone has recorded a twofold increase in the number of visitors during the period. “This growth came because international tourists sought to visit Pakistani sites in the wake of foreign travel restrictions,” he said. Owing to the arrival of a large number of tourists in Skardu, the rent of hotel rooms has tripled to Rs12,000 per day from Rs4,000 earlier. The fare of vehicles for local visits has also gone up due to a surge in demand. The spokesman pointed out that the demand for hotel rooms was now surpassing the supply, therefore investors were heading to the region to build new hotels or purchase franchises of the existing hospitality chains. Over one million tourists have visited the scenic Gilgit-Baltistan region since May, said Iqbal Hussain, a director at the Gilgit-Baltistan Tourism Department. “This year, we have opened the sector from early May,” said Hussain. “We have recorded one million tourists till July 15.” The mountainous northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan is Pakistan’s favourite tourism destination and was listed by Forbes among the ten “coolest places” to visit in 2018.