There are a deluge of advertisements about the travel destinations across the world. Myriads of countries globally promote their travel destinations to attract tourists, which eventually boosts the economy of a particular country in terms of inflow of foreign exchange, employment opportunities for millions and boost in the transportation industry. There are favorite destinations of tourists for multifarious reasons i.e. budget travel destinations, secure travel destinations, frequently travel destinations, historic travel destinations, religious travel destinations etc. Some of the most frequently travel destinations recently are San Antonio Texas, the United States of America; Puebla, Mexico; Hawaii, the USA; St. Helena; Province of Laguna, the Philippines; The Balkan Peninsula; Agra, India; Budapest, Hungary; Buenos Aires, Argentina and Gobi Desert, Mongolia.
The global Travel & Tourism contributed a whopping $8.8 trillion to the world economy last year besides millions of employment opportunities. It is being claimed that it is for the eighth consecutive year that this industry has surpassed the growth rate of world GDP. This speaks volumes of the significance of this industry. It seems as if Pakistan has always squandered this opportunity to underpin the economic growth.
Pakistan is blessed with plenty of travel destinations, which could be promoted to attract foreign exchange and generate employment. Promotion of travel and tourism has multiple impacts on the economy. Ample job opportunities could be created for the unemployed educated and uneducated youth. Some of the jobs could be Tour Guide & Coordinator, Travel Consultant, Transport Officer, Tour Executive, Sales & Marketing Officer, Travel Agent, Customer Service Representative, Travel Services Manager, Sales Executive, Peon, Helper, Cleaner, Office Boy, Driver, Tourism Manager etc.
There are Sufi shrines, Hindu temples, Sikh gurdawaras, Buddhist monasteries, historic churches etc. for religious tourism in Pakistan. There are around 1.1 billion Hindus, 27 million Sikhs and 521 million Buddhists who could be the target market for religious tourism in Pakistan. Gandhara region comprising Mardan, Taxila and Swat along with Haripur for Buddhists, Katas Raj, which is a complex of seven ancient Hindu temples for Hindus, Nankana Sahib and recently opened Kartarpur Corridor for Sikhs could be the priority for the religious tourism in Pakistan.
Over a billion people out the total world population of 7.7 billion travel internationally and around 50% of the total tourists visit the developing countries. It is staggering to know that the direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to Pakistan’s gross domestic product is meagre 2.8%, which actually is far below its potential. There is massive potential in terms of inflow of foreign exchange since over $33 billion are spent by the tourists in South Asia on average. Pakistan has a trivial share in, which must be a cause of concern. India has a gigantic share in tourism whereas Sri Lanka and Maldives are also capitalizing on it.
A strategy needs to be chalked out to promote tourism in Pakistan. Pakistan’s tourism has potential to contribute up to 10% in the GDP of the country, which could help the economy to the hilt. There have been complaints about the culpable negligence in terms of the facilities for the domestic and local tourists. Corruption seems to be rampant in this industry as well.
Pakistan does not command any rank in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019 for various reasons. The incumbent government is making efforts to boost tourism for which various steps have been taken, however, the grass roots problems are not being addressed which is disappointing since the experience of even local tourists is not encouraging for those who intend to visit the most-talked-about places of Pakistan.
A Herculean effort is required sooner rather than later to promote the tourism sector of Pakistan for a sustainable economic growth.