Abstract: Until the building of the Karakorum Highway (1958–78), the region of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, was extremely isolated, thus preserving distinct cultural traits. The few tourists accessing the area were primarily experienced mountaineers. The highway was established to provide a land link with China, principally as a result of turbulent geo-political rivalry. Once built, however, the road created a connexion to the outside world and allowed for many more visitors to the region. Whilst the road was not built with tourism in mind, it allowed easier access for tourists and necessitated the development of a service sector to provide for those using the road. As a consequence, a once subsistence and self-reliant economy became monetised, and modern consumer goods were introduced to the region. Increased access and mobility has facilitated change in the Gilgit-Baltistan, contributing to a degree of social inclusion not previously possible. Whilst there are multiple drivers of change observed here, tourism has provided an important means by which some of the more profound changes have occurred. Local people have adapted their livelihoods to the new, monetary economy resulting in a decline in traditional agricultural practices. More importantly, however, tourism has enabled the outside world to enter into the consciousness of local people. Visitors have become conduits of change and the world is now viewed via technologies made possible by the spoils of tourism. The road has also allowed for much easier movement of local people out of and back to Gilgit-Baltistan, thereby facilitating increased social inclusion with the wider world.
Keywords: development; Gilgit-Baltistan; mobility; Pakistan; road; social inclusion; tourism; transport