TOURISM IN PAKISTAN
S.KAMAL HAYDER KAZMI,
Research Analyst, PAGE
Dec 3 - 9, 2012
Pakistan, with the world's oldest civilization, exotic mountain beauty and splendid seasonal variety, has immense tourist potential. The sacred religious places, which spread throughout the country, make Pakistan an attractive place for a variety of people and religions. Tourism assets of Pakistan include a coastal zone spreading over one thousand kilometers along the Arabian Sea offering long term development potential for beach resorts, diversified natural deserts in the south and beautiful hill stations and valleys in the north. It has also great potential for tourism sports like mountaineering and trekking. The relics of the Indus Civilization in the south, Gandhara Civilization in the north and the great heritage of Mughals in Punjab are exceptional cultural assets of Pakistan. There are also great adventures zones with the high mountains located in the north of the country, where four of the world's largest ranges meet.
Tourism activities are considered to be one of the major sources of economic growth. It can be regarded as a mechanism of generating the employment as well as income in both formal and informal sectors. Tourism supplements the foreign exchange earnings derived from trade in commodities and some times finance the import of capital goods necessary for the growth of manufacturing sectors in the economy.
On the other hand rapid economic growth in the developed economies attracts foreign travels, which leads to an increase in the foreign reserve of the country. Pakistan can earn so much revenue from tourism; unemployment can be reduced greatly. While other countries mint money from their tourism industries.
The neighbouring countries of Pakistan depend on their tourism industries to sustain their economies. Not Pakistan. It is not only are inept leaders who are responsible for tarnishing country's culture but also the religious bullies and of course, terrorism - they are all to blame for successfully gobbling up the tourism industry.
Don't go too further; just take a look at Sri Lanka, Nepal, India and even Iran. The entire world travels to these countries for tourism purposes. Even if foreign tourists don't go there, the locals use their holidays to go sightseeing in their own country.
Unfortunately, all those foreigners who used to visit Pakistan have now forgot the route of the country. Even Pakistani people who were somewhat interested in sightseeing and wished to tell their children about the civilization and history and thus used to go on tours across the country during school holidays now cannot muster up the courage to step out of their homes. The rich ones presently don't like to see the beauty of their own country anyway and prefer to spend every holiday abroad. Even if Pakistanis wanted to tour their own country, their feet are put in iron shackles first by the inflation and then by the unrest and the widespread plundering and killing, as well as the bomb blasts; preventing them from stepping out of their homes.
Many tourists have been kidnapped and killed for ransom in the different provinces of Pakistan since many years. As a result the tourists fear to come in Pakistan. Now where will a Pakistani go anyway? Swat, where people's main sustenance was through tourism, had just started to get back on its feet when Malala shot, thus pushing Swatis' deeper in the abyss. Previously, whenever a poor person's heart was distressed, he or she would turn towards shrines but now, even those shrines are being bombed. So citizens are left with historical sites, which attract the interests of neither the people nor the government. If people do wish to travel the length and breadth of the country then either they or one of their relatives must be in any government forces, for their guesthouses are spread all over the country. If not in the forces, people must have some contacts within the bureaucracy to be able to tour the country.
In the country, people are urged to stay home during holidays. Even the government of Pakistan bans on cell phones and motorcycles, as these might be danger of terrorist activities.
It was estimated that Pakistan Tourism Development Cooperation (PTDC) has achieved its targets to promote domestic tourism in the country despite negative projection by the international media. It was also estimated that the tourist traffic to Murree, Galiat, Ayubia, Kaghan and Swat Valley have considerably increased during 2011 and 2012, while Pakistani tourists are now visiting new destinations like Gilgit, Hunza, Fairy Meadows, Rama Lake, Chitral, Kalash and Shandur valleys as well.
More recently, Pakistan and India have agreed to ease the visa regime for bilateral visits. According to the agreement, the duration of single-entry tourist visa, which was previously three months, has been extended to six months. However, tourists cannot stay for more than three months, following which; an additional request will be required for extension of stay. The number of destination cities on the visa has been increased from three to five.
No doubt, in the field of tourism, Pakistan offers many allures in the developing world. The country inherits numerous tourist attractions at Swat, Kalam, Malam Jaba, Shangla, Balakot, Ayubia, Murri, Chitral, Gilgit, Naran and Kaghan valleys, and other mountains ranges, historical, and archaeological places in the other parts of the country. Although, the temporarily suspended mobile phone services in major cities, was a major step to prevent terrorism in the country which is appreciable. It is expected that, 35,000 people have been killed as a result of terrorism since the 9/11 attacks which is affecting tourism industry of the country.
INTERNATIONAL TOURISM RECEIPTS FORECASTS (US$ million)
08-10 10- 11 11-12 08-12 COUNTRY 2008 2010 AAGR (%) 2011 AAGR (%) 2012 AAGR (%) AAGR (%) Nepal 352 385 4.58 413 7.27 445 7.75 6.04 Pakistan 276 297 3.73 318 7.07 343 7.86 5.58 Sri Lanka 320 349 4.43 378 8.31 408 7.94 6.26