TOURISM INDUSTRY TUMBLING

MOHAMMED ARIFEEN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Dec 3 - 9, 2012

Tourism is one of the largest industries throughout the world, both in terms of size and employment ($5.4 trillion and 8.6 per cent of the global workforce).

Pakistan tourism is rapidly crumbling with no sign of any positive progress. In 2009, the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report (TTCR) ranked Pakistan 113 out of 130 countries to visit.

For years, domestic and foreign tourists were attracted by our mighty beautiful snow mountains for hiking, skating, forest camping and climbing.

Swat, Hunza, Ayubia, Abbottabad, Muree, Naran and Kaghan attracted both foreign and domestic tourist in particular during summer and winter vacation. The natural parks and the wildlife in the forests offered a stimulating feeling for travelers in search of adventure.

The Swat valley alone - known as the "Switzerland of the East" - became the centre for more than 825 hotels. Over 40,000 local people were employed directly in hospitality.

From the start of the major military operation in 2007, Pakistan's earning from tourism industry began to drop dramatically.

In 2007, from Rs 16 billion revenues halved in 2008, with a further major fall in 2009. The tourism industry is now facing a $50 million annual loss as a result of the military operations.

The revenue generated from tourism industry slumped by 11.8 per cent in 2008, and a further 12 per cent in 2009. Before the war, the average family involved in the tourism business was earning Rs 40,000 monthly.

Since 2007, the terrorism in Pakistan has not only created political and economic instability in the country, killing thousands of people, but also crushed the major industries, making millions of people jobless. Terrorism is not only restricted to a special city but it is also everywhere in any city and anyone can be an unfortunate victim, directly or indirectly.

With the security situation degenerating and many of the famous tourist destinations growing into war zones, few travelers now visit Pakistan. The number of tourists was already declining following the 9/11 attacks on the United States; the military operations and suicide attacks have been the jolt in the break down of the tourism industry

Suicide bombings in shops, schools, colleges, markets, public places, business centres and institutes have become an everyday occurrence. The kidnapping of foreigners and conflict between religious militants and military forces has badly affected all forms of tourism throughout the country.

Hard hit areas have been Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata areas. Millions of people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata who were involved in the tourism industry are now severely crushed. Non stop war and terrorism has undermined both the defense and the economy of the country as a whole.

With thousand of people killed and more than a million displaced in the past year, planned hotel projects have been cancelled.

Brutality and bloodbath now run widespread in places which once offered serenity and tranquility. No-one has an ambition of visiting tourist places for pleasure now. No substantial scheme has been introduced to help resurrect tourism industry.

The transport industry an essential part of tourism industry also is going through hard times due to non availability of CNG gas. With huge job losses in tourism and related industries, there has been large-scale movement to other cities in search of employment.

Lack of infrastructure has dented tourism badly. The 2005 earthquake and severe floods, particularly in North Pakistan, a tourist hub, have hurt the tourism industry.

Other factors like lack of education, poor infrastructure, lack of medical facilities and above all declaring Pakistan a dangerous state dented tourism industry.

Let Pakistan observe keenly Sri Lanka which is introducing its first ever think tank for the tourism industry to sustain its post-war boom of foreign tourist arrivals.

The new establishment, the Center for Research and Sustainability Studies in Tourism (CRST), will gather information, analyze and disseminate data for better decision making in the industry, co-founder of the center Dileep Mudadeniya said.

"CRST will act as an independent body with a sound research database, providing actionable data, analysis and studies supporting the development of tourism in Sri Lanka at the macro level, gearing up to the arrival of more than a million visitors by the end of 2012," he added.

Sri Lanka's tourism industry has flourished since the end of a three conflict in 2009. The government had signed a 450-million- U.S. dollar mixed development project with India's Krrish Group that would include a seven-star hotel in the heart of Colombo.

This is the latest investment since Sri Lanka's tourism took off after 30 years of civil war. Several international brands including Shangri-la, Sheraton, Hyatt and Sun City have already signed agreements to invest around 2 billion U.S. dollars in hotel projects in Sri Lanka.

During the first eight months of 2012, tourist arrivals rose 15. 8 percent to 622,661 year on year, with the August number increasing 9.7 percent. Sri Lanka has set a target to receive 1 million tourists in 2012.

Pakistan should take example of India the neighboring country where tourism industry creates more jobs than the conventional industries like agriculture and automobiles. India contributes 5.9 per cent of GDP, making it the largest contributor after the oil and gas industry.

In the last six years, it has created 11 million jobs and has the potential to create another 37 million jobs (estimated by the NSSO, Ministry of Tourism) of the 120 million projected requirement by 2020. The future of tourism in India is bright and now visa on arrival is slowly becoming a reality.

Over the next two years some exciting novel trends will have a good impact in the development of India tourism.

In India tourism boards are attracting the consumers through their originative and aggressive marketing campaigns, even in the little marketed regions like Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal.

Tourism resources have still not been exploited in true sense word. There is desperate need to encourage eco-tourism along with tourism, says historians and environmentalists.

Tourism industry brings forth large amounts of income in payment for goods and services available, accounting for 30 percent of the world's exports of services, and 6 percent of overall exports of goods and services.

It generates chances for employment in the service sector. These service industries include transportation services, such as airlines, taxi cabs, hotels, and resorts, as well as entertainment venues, such as amusement parks, casinos shopping malls, music venues, and theatres.

Tourism industry plays an important role in increasing revenue and helping to earn large valuable foreign exchange in the country. Tourism provides Pakistan and the European countries an opportunity to link to each other.

There seems little prospect in the coming years of tourism regaining the momentum it has lost. The future looks dark for Pakistan most stunningly beautiful destination.

In this regard, it is urged that the international tourism organizations should devise a tourism board to look after the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. The International tourism organizations should also be responsible for arranging tourism conferences and seminars worldwide for the publicity of Pakistan as a tourism destination.