Tourism in Pakistan, as an ‘industry’ is known to contribute to various sectors of the economy, which are the hospitality sector, the food industry, transportation including air, road, and water transport, tour agencies, cultural events and activities, recreational activities, trade and lastly, area-specific tourism activities.
Many countries like Switzerland, Singapore, Turkey, the Philippines, Maldives, and Thailand have established ‘sustainable tourism’ as a vital tool for development.
Tourism in Pakistan
Once confronted with three-threat scenarios i.e., internal upheavals, an external threat from neighboring India, and terrorism, Pakistan heavily invested in tapping the potential of its tourism industry and successfully leveraged it to emerge as one of the top tourist destinations.
Known for its charming natural beauty, cultural richness, and unparalleled hospitality offered to tourists, renowned publications like Forbes and Condé Nast Traveller have lauded Pakistan as a top destination for 2020.
Pakistan contributes over 5.9 percent to the total economy, worth Rs2.285 trillion, as reported by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Pakistan 2020 Annual Report. The total contribution of travel and tourism to employment is 3,881.9 (6.2%) jobs, with far more avenues and opportunities untapped.
In addition, the international visitor impacts have been worth Rs116.2 billion, reported WTTC. The bounce-back of tourism activity also resulted in ‘British Airways’ resuming their services in Pakistan nearly a decade after their departure.
Today, Pakistan offers on-arrival visas to visitors from 50 countries, whereas citizens from another 175 countries can apply for permits online. This policy advancement has been introduced to increase the availability of travel visas and boost tourism.
The main types of tourism available in Pakistan can be classified into four categories: archaeology and historical tourism, ecotourism, adventure tourism, and religious tourism. Even though tourism in Pakistan is on the rise, several remaining factors hamper the growth of the industry.
In this article, Graana.com explores famous tourist attractions, challenges, and the potential areas that can be improved to drive the economy through the tourism industry.
Major Tourist Attractions in Pakistan
An amalgam of diverse cultures, the beauty of Pakistan is translated through the remains of ancient civilizations, religious sites, monuments still alive singing tales of the battles fought, serene valleys with snow-capped peaks and frozen lakes, beautiful shores, and lush green forests.
Some of the top locations identified that receive a high number of tourists are:
Nestled in the Karakoram Mountain Range, Hunza valley comprises several valleys and colorful villages. It is the home of the most helpful, liberal, and hospitable people.
Among the orchards, glaciers, meadows skirted by a majestic lake – Attabad Lake, and wooden bridges, Hunza offers hypnotic sunset views. The Altit and Baltit forts, Passu Cones, and Eagles Nest are some of the most popular areas among those visiting.
Skardu’s salient features are towering mountains, beautiful lakes, turquoise waters, and the world’s highest baseball field. The destination is the home to the second-highest plateau on the planet – Deosai National Park, often referred to as the world’s roof, sprawling on an area of 4,117 meters.
From Satpara Lake to forts dating back to more than 600 years, and populous bazaars, Skardu gives tourists a run for their money.
Another majestic site in Gilgit- Baltistan is Fairy Meadows. The meadows offer an incredible view of Nanga Parbat, the world’s 9th highest mountain peak, whereas the nights in the meadow unveil the stars up in the sky for those visiting. Adventurers visit Nanga Parbat for trekking as it is one of the best hiking trails in Pakistan.
Located at a height of 15,397 feet (nearly 4,600 meters), this popular tourist attraction connects Pakistan with China to form the highest paved border crossing in the world.
Challenges Faced by Pakistan’s Tourism Industry
With an expanding workforce and a culture known for its hospitality, Pakistan ticks all the boxes required to create a self-sustaining tourism industry.
However, tourism in Pakistan was never entirely given precedence at both federal and provincial levels to benefit tremendously. Several existing potential challenges need to be overcome for the sector to avail the full potential of this rewarding yet complex industry.
One of the most prominent issues Pakistan’s tourism industry currently faces is poor access to roads, an underdeveloped hospitality sector and routes, and a lack of basic facilities for tourist.
The essential elements to boost tourism is quality infrastructure, including airports, access to roads, road transport, railway tracks, flights, services, restaurants, accommodation facilities (hotels, motels), and local tour guides and agencies.
In Pakistan’s case, the infrastructure was less developed due to a lack of federal bodies and policies pushing to change the image of the sector.
However, the current government has announced upcoming projects and facilities comprising various tourist places, access roads, parking, and boarding and lodging services, in order to boost the sector.
Underdeveloped hospitality sector
Due to underdeveloped infrastructure, lack of governmental policies, and issues about security, the hospitality sector remains underdeveloped as per international standards. Presently, some of the hotels and restaurants functional in the country do not implement adequate certification standards that offer quality services.
The implementation laws ensure state-of-the-art services crucial to maintain the standards of the hospitality sector, which in turn reflects the transformation of the tourism industry.
Lack of Human Resource Development
One of the most understated challenges that Pakistan’s tourism industry faces is a lack of human resource development. The lack of skilled manpower and lack of facilities, the low quality of services provided to the tourists discourage them from returning.
Unexplored religious tourist sites
The home of over 211.2 million people, Pakistan is blessed with numerous religious sites of different religions, especially Buddhism, Sikhism, and Christianity. Some of the most famous Buddhist sites areas in Pakistan include Dhamarajika Stupa and Monastery dating back to 300 BC – 200 AD, Bhir Mound (600-200 BC), Sirkap (200 BC – 600 AD), Jandial Temple (c.250 BC) and Julian Monastery (200 – 600 AD).
The Sikh religion has some of the most famous and sacred religious sites in Pakistan tombs, the biggest being the tomb of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. In addition, Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Narowal, Gurdwara Panja Sahib famous located in Hasan Abdal, and Gurdwara Rori Sahib, Eminabad, Gujranwala are among the most famous Gurudwaras in Pakistan.
On the other hand, St Andrew Church Stained Glass and Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore, Holy Trinity Cathedral in Karachi, and the Night view of St Mary’s Cathedral & Bishop’s House in Multan are some of the most visited places by tourists and locals, both. Despite such diversity and attraction, Pakistan never fully explored and developed the sector on this sustainable basis.
Insufficient private-sector investment
The infrastructure and facilities offered in this industry require vast amounts of capital for their development. Being a ‘developing country,’ it has been hard for the government to allocate substantial funds to overcome this challenge.
The only option to overcome this challenge is to induce the private sector to participate in tourism development projects. No policy exists to attract private sector investment in the tourism industry.
Potential Areas to Improve the Industry
In order to turn Pakistan’s tourism industry into a great revenue-generating industry and compete at the global level, a few significant areas are highlighted that can be improved.
Formulation and implementation of policies
The country’s tourism industry has long suffered due to a lack of funds, a shortage of expertise, and government policies. Tourism bodies and provincial governments did not take drastic steps to develop a national and provincial tourism policy.
However, the current government has highlighted the tourism industry after the construction and real estate industry as one of the most significant industries to develop and improve the economic conditions, especially after the outbreak of COVID-19.
For a systemic transformation, the governments should introduce broader tourism policies, rules, and regulations exploring the socio-economic aims for tourism growth and promoting the involvement of the private sector to invite investments and encourage tourism, both nationally and internationally.
Proper policies and effective implementation will not only develop the tourism Industry but also create employment, unveil more and more opportunities, and generate revenues, including foreign exchange.
Develop modern infrastructure
To further enhance tourism in the country, the government should also focus on improving existing infrastructure as per international standards, including not road connectivity, airports, transport system, etc.
IT usage for the promotion of tourism
The world has witnessed a surge in information technology (IT), triggered by the outbreak of COVID-19. ‘Digital transformation’ has what kept the world connected, causing internet usability and e-commerce penetration to increase by 15-25%.
Using this, the hospitality sector and other services can utilize IT to showcase the business through their websites online, through comprehensive online packages, information regarding the hotel, guest rooms, services, transportation, and tourist guides, if any.
This advancement will not only help them with publicity but can be a bridge to identify the gap and meet the demand of the tourists and attract them as well.
The tourism industry is considered the backbone of the economy of any nation. Being a ‘developing country’, Pakistan’s tourism industry has the potential and zeal to turn this weakness into its strength. Hence, to be able to compete in the global arena, the government must explore the wonders the tourism industry of Pakistan offers.
This comprises all the avenues, including various tourist attractions, enhancing tourism bodies by introducing authorities on a provincial level, adopting policy framework, conserving existing locations and introducing more to profit, expanding and offering more to those visiting our homeland.
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Here are some FAQs related to tourism in Pakistan
What is the current state of tourism in Pakistan?
Tourism in Pakistan is being promoted and encouraged, with efforts being made to attract both domestic and international tourists to explore the country’s natural beauty, cultural heritage, and diverse attractions.
Are there any popular tourist destinations in Pakistan?
Pakistan is home to numerous popular tourist destinations, including historical sites such as Mohenjo-Daro and Taxila, scenic spots like Hunza Valley and Swat Valley, and natural wonders like Naran-Kaghan and Fairy Meadows.
How can I travel to Pakistan for tourism purposes?
Traveling to Pakistan for tourism purposes can be done by obtaining the necessary travel documents, including a valid passport and an appropriate visa, as per the requirements set by the Pakistani authorities.
Are there any safety concerns for tourists in Pakistan?
The safety and security of tourists in Pakistan are given utmost importance. Measures are taken by the relevant authorities to ensure the safety of tourists, including enhanced security measures at tourist sites and the provision of tourist police in certain areas.
Are there any specific guidelines or regulations for tourists visiting sensitive areas in Pakistan?
Certain areas in Pakistan, particularly those close to international borders or designated as restricted zones, may have specific guidelines or regulations in place for tourists. It is advisable to seek guidance from local authorities or tour operators before visiting such areas.
Are there tourism packages or guided tours available for exploring Pakistan?
Yes, there are tourism packages and guided tours available for exploring Pakistan. Tour operators and travel agencies offer various itineraries and services to cater to the diverse interests and preferences of tourists.
Can I engage in adventure tourism activities in Pakistan?
Yes, Pakistan offers a range of adventure tourism activities, including mountaineering, trekking, hiking, rock climbing, and safari tours. These activities are conducted with the assistance of experienced guides and following proper safety protocols.
Is it possible to experience cultural festivals and events in Pakistan as a tourist?
Yes, tourists have the opportunity to experience cultural festivals and events in Pakistan. The country hosts various cultural festivals throughout the year, providing a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage and traditions of different regions.
Are there any sustainable tourism initiatives in Pakistan?
Yes, sustainable tourism initiatives are being promoted in Pakistan to ensure the preservation of natural and cultural resources. Efforts are made to raise awareness about responsible tourism practices and promote eco-friendly tourism activities.