In 2019, a video titled, Why is everything free in Pakistan went viral on social media. In the video, a Jewish man from the United States walks in the bazaars of Peshawar. He gets thirsty and goes to a street vendor to buy a water bottle, which he gets for free for being a guest. Many such videos of travel vloggers created a new interest of tourists in Pakistan. This video and many other factors led to the resurgence of Pakistan’s billion-dollar tourism industry. This blog looks into the re-emergence of Pakistan’s tourism industry, the opportunity it brings for the country, and the challenges it faces along with the way forward.
Pakistan’s Tourism Industry
In 2019, Pakistan was ranked top destination by the British backpacker society and the ultimate adventure destination by Conde Nast. Forbes also listed Pakistan in its article named “10 cool places to go in 2019”. After the military operation against terrorists, the situation of law and order improved in the country. The new government has shown a significant interest in the tourism industry, and a rise in adventure travel favoured Pakistan to attract tourists. The royal couple’s successful trip to Pakistan was a cherry on the top. In 2019, tourism contributed 5.9 per cent of the country’s GDP.
In 2020, covid-19 became a pandemic, limiting people to their houses because the only way to avoid the disease was to maintain social distance. As a result, governments used lockdown as a policy to control the spread of disease. This situation impacted Pakistan’s tourism industry, but many people in the travel industry are optimistic that 2021 will be different.
First off, the covid vaccine has made the prevention of disease easy. Secondly, wearing masks and social distancing can be practised while seeking adventure. One travel organisation in Pakistan is working under the motto “my adventure doesn’t have to be reckless.” Lockdown and social distancing policies have increased the wanderlust of people. The nostalgia for travel and adventure is at an all-time high. Therefore, the prospects of Pakistan’s tourism industry growing further are positive.
Opportunities for Pakistan
The tourism industry provides Pakistan with a vast array of opportunities. The most obvious one is the economic welfare that you will bring to the country. Tourism can aid Pakistan in generating income in the travel and hospitality sector. This prospect is an excellent opportunity for small and big businesses in the country. The government can tax these businesses and increase its tax revenue spent on the people.
It also allows Pakistan to change its image in the international community. Unfortunately, despite Pakistan’s sacrifices, the Global War on Terror has left a terrible reputation of Pakistan in the international community. Western media television shows like Homeland show Pakistan is a country from the 16th century with an uneducated population and a terrible security situation. Most foreigners take this media-created image for real. Tourism in Pakistan allows the country to change its image and show the real Pakistan. This image will improve the trade and foreign policy prospects of the country.
The immediate most challenging part of Pakistan’s tourism industry is the current pandemic. New variants and the need for booster shots may push world governments to reinforce lockdown and social distancing. Other than that, Pakistan has a cleanliness issue. American vlogging family, which goes by the name Where the Jones on YouTube, pointed out that cleanliness is one of the most significant discomforts that tourists in Pakistan face. On his first visit, another YouTuber, College Free, cleaned Mohenjo Daro while the locals watched.
Small businesses in the hospitality sector often struggle. Many small hotels in the north shut down because of declining business. As a result, there is no option for the middle class to have a high-quality but affordable travel package. Many tourists and Pakistan find the country cheap because of its low exchange rate, but inflation is increasing, and the government is not as cheap as many other tourist destinations.
The Way Forward
Despite challenges, there are many small steps that Pakistan can take to grow the tourism industry. The first thing that Pakistan must do is to define its tourism brand. Some countries are considered cheap for travel, others are considered luxury travel, and some take one into the future, like Japan. What Pakistan can do is create a luxurious experience at an affordable price for the Global middle class. This niche is the easiest to exploit.
Secondly, Pakistan needs a cultural change when it comes to tourism. Its cities have to be cleaned, and citizens have to maintain that. Pakistani citizens also have to accept tourists who may not be aware of the country’s cultural norms. The citizens have to be educated, so they do not face a reverse culture shock. The government is already working to promote tourism; it is also educating the people. Pakistan has two guide tourists who do not speak English, and language learning has to be encouraged.
In a nutshell, Pakistan’s tourism industry has a massive potential to bring this country out of economic pitfalls. International travel bloggers’ improvement in the law and order situation and the country’s natural beauty and hospitable people have attracted many tourists in the last two years. Despite the challenges of covid-19, wanderlust is at its peak, something that Pakistan can enjoy.