Tourism, 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, Philippines, Maldives, and Thailand have established ‘sustainable tourism’ as a vital tool for development.
Tourism in Pakistan
Once confronted with three-threat scenario i.e. internal upheavals, an external threat from neighbouring India and terrorism, Pakistan heavily invested to tap the potential of its tourism industry and successfully leveraged to emerge as one of the top tourist destinations.
Known for its bewitching 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.
Currently, Pakistan contributes over 5.9 per cent to the total economy, worth a sum of 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 in total, 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-arrivals visas to visitors from 50 countries, whereas, citizens from another 175 countries can apply for visas online.
This policy advancement has been introduced to increase the availability of travel visas and increase tourism.
Countries have strived to position themselves as a preferred destination for tourists.
In a bid to revive the tourism, Prime Minister Imran Khan accorded approval for the National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB), with Zulfiqar Bukhari as Chairman NTBC, and working groups, including Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC).
The main types of tourism available in Pakistan can be classified into four categories, namely archaeology and historical tourism, ecotourism, adventure tourism, and religious tourism.
Even though tourism in Pakistan is on the rise, there are several remaining factors that 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. Get to know travel guide for northern areas of Pakistan and dams in Pakistan.
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 comprises several valleys and colourful 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.
Towering mountains, beautiful lakes, turquoise waters, and the world’s highest baseball field are the salient features of Skardu.
The destination is the home to the second-highest plateau on the planet – Deosai National Park, often referred to as the roof of the world, sprawling on an area of 4,117 metres.
From Satpara Lake to forts dating back to more than 600 years, and populous bazaars, Skardu definitely gives the 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 unveils the stars up in the sky for those visiting. Adventurers visit Nanga Parbat for trekking as it is one of best hiking trails of Pakistan.
Located at a height of 15,397 feet (nearly 4,600 metres), 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 available and a culture that is known for its hospitality, Pakistan ticks all the boxes required to create a self-sustaining tourism industry.
However, tourism in Pakistan was never fully given the 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, underdeveloped hospitality sector and routes, and lack of basic facilities for the 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 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 pertaining to 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 implementations laws ensure state-of-the-art services crucial to maintain the standards of the hospitality sector that 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, low quality of services provided to the tourists which discourage them to return.
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 renowned 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 Jaulian Monastery (200 – 600 AD).
The Sikh religion has some of the most renowned and sacred religious sites in Pakistan tombs, including the biggest being the tomb of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religions. 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 Night view of St Mary’s Cathedral & Bishop’s House in Multan are some of the most visited places by the tourists and locals, both.
Despite such diversity and attraction Pakistan never fully explored and develop the sector on this sustainable basis
Insufficient private sector investment
The infrastructure and facilities offered under this industry require huge 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 take part in tourism development projects.
Currently, no policy exists which can 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, there are a few significant areas highlighted that can be improved.
Formulation and implementation of policies
Country’s tourism industry has long suffered due to lack of funds, shortage of expertise, and policies of the government. This resulted in tourism bodies and provincial governments to 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 of policies 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 promotion of tourism
The world has witnessed the surge of 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 as 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, enhance tourism bodies by introducing authorities on a provincial level, adopt policy framework, conserve existing locations and introduce more to profit, expand and offer more to those visiting our homeland.
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