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Developing tourism industry of Pakistan

Chakar The Great

Apr 25, 2018
United Kingdom
World Tourism and Travel Council predicts that Pakistan’s tourism industry has the potential to grow to around US$ 39.8 billion within a decade. The present government has already vowed in its election campaign that it would promote Pakistan as “Asia’s Best Kept Secret” in global tourism market. The government is confident that tourism would be contributing Rs.1 trillion to Pakistan economy by 2025. Countries like Switzerland, Thailand, Philippines, Maldives and Sri Lanka demonstrate that sustainable tourism is a tool for development.

Operations Zarb-e Azab and Raddul Fassad under National Action Plan have eliminated terrorism and extremism from the country and the tourism industry is direct beneficiary of this situation. Significant security improvement has boosted annual tourist arrival by 300% in recent years with 1.75 million only in 2017. For global citizens, Pakistan is highly attractive tourist excitement with bewitching beauty of landscape, rich and varied culture, historical heritage and places of religious significance.

Therefore, it is ripe opportunity to develop tourism as an industry by integrating it into development agenda. Snow-capped mountains and scenic beauty of Swat, Hunza, Neelam Valley, Kalash Valley, Murree Hills and Naran are regarded as earthly paradise. Coastal areas, mesmerizing deserts, archaeological and different religious places of Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism in addition of famous Muslim saints are marvellous tourist attractions scattered all over Pakistan.

United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) declares tourism an ‘industry’ on account of its contribution to twelve sectors of the economy that include (1) Hoteling and Accommodation (2) Food & Beverage (3) Railway Transport (4) Road Transport (5) Water Transport (6) Air Travel (7) Transport Equipment Rental (8) Travel & Tour Agencies (9) Cultural Events & Activities (10) Sports & Recreational Activities (11) Trade of Country Specific Tourism Goods and (12) Country Specific Tourism Activities.

Now, let us see how tourism industry can contribute to the economic growth and development of Pakistan:

1. Tourism can stimulate GDP growth of the country. Travel and tourism currently contribute 7.4 % to the GDP of Pakistan.

2. Tourism increases international trade and commerce.

3. In terms of foreign direct investment, tourism and hospitality are the second fastest growing industries. Investment of Rs.410 billion was made in this sector in 2017.

4. Infrastructure development like roads, railways, airports, water & energy supply and medical services takes place to encourage tourism.

5. Low income economies are largely supported with the arrival of international tourists.

6. Tourism is one of the largest sources to generate employment opportunities.

7. Due to its wider supply chain, tourism promotes inclusive growth as it has the potential to reach and benefit a larger proportion of the population.

8. Rural communities are strengthened by the tourism that alleviates poverty.

9. With the courtesy of tourism, urban areas are revitalized with the improvement of infrastructure and the attraction of investment.

10. Tourism improves access to income with the Fintech and digital platform technology in vogue.

11. Handicrafts of artisans have opened up to global market with tourism

12. Tourism raises climate change awareness and makes realize the conservation of nature.

13. It is very effective source of promoting inter-cultural harmony.

14. Tourism propels blue economy and the conservation of marine life.

15. Post-conflict recovery can be achieved by boosting tourism. Terror-struck areas of Swat and Waziristan are typical examples.

The development of tourism industry is already an active agenda of the government. While inaugurating “Pakistan Banao Certificate” PM Imran Khanhighlighted how US$ 44 billion and US$ 22 is earned by Turkey and Malaysia, respectively, from the tourism industry.

Here, it is pertinent to propose some international best practices of the tourism industry in order to tap the true potential:

A. Brand identity is a key in tourism. Malaysia brands itself as “Truly Asia”. Pakistan too can be popularized as “Authentic Asia”, since we are one of the oldest civilizations of the world.

B. Lure of touring Pakistan is to be managed with some cherished activities like Desert Safari of Dubai and Royal Tourist Train of India. A Luxury Train Tour from Gowadar to Islamabad while stopping at diverse cultural destinations and presenting a plethora of activities would be very handy.

C. Pakistan should engage digital world travel bloggers to attract foreigners.

D. Another option could be to launch Basant and Besakhi Mela as international festivals in Pakistan in order to build a positive image.

E. Local tourism should also not be neglected that has registered a sharp increase of 25% last year due to rise in per capita income and social media.

F. PTDC should be supported with its initiatives like Pakistan Tourism Friends Club offering exclusive 20% on PTDC facilities.

G. A key role should be assigned to our embassies abroad in arranging tourism shows to woo the international tourists.

H. Besides Kartar Pur Border, Pakistan can also present Buddhist places to Chinese and Koreans along CPEC routes as religious tourist attractions.

I. After 18th Amendment, tourism devolves to provinces. Federal government has to manage provincial coordination to revamp the tourism industry.

In nutshell, Pakistan is a hidden gem and one of the most unexplored countries. After securing peace and security, it is high time to put Pakistan on world’s tourism radar. By developing our tourism industry to unravel the “Asia’s Best Kept Secret”, Pakistan can emerge as top destination of the world.

Published in Daily Times, February 3rd 2019.

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