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It is a globally recognized fact that revenue generated through tourism activity has yielded more than any other sector of business. Tourism stands on the verge of coming of age and we must strive to make Pakistan a tourists’ destination; with the influx of tourists inevitably changing the entire outlook of our country. It will create employment, promote cottage industry and above all showcase Pakistan. If this situation is analyzed at a micro level even poverty can easily be eradicated.
A conference about Pakistan’s majestic mountains, held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris late October, was attended by over 500 enthusiasts of adventure sports and tourism. Attendees came from European countries, including Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.
It is encouraging to see something concrete being finally done to improve Pakistan’s negative image amongst foreign travelers. However, the kind of message this conference sends to the potential tourists to Pakistan would rather be a misleading one.
If we make a comparison of revenue engendered between trade and tourism globally, tourism earnings are at the top. We have never taken this revenue generating segment of business conscientiously, in spite of the known fact that our country has some of the most beautiful sites, mountains, lakes, beaches, water-sports, and archeological sites.
No doubt, Pakistan is geographically blessed with numerous tourist attractions, ranging from civilizations of antiquity, unique heritage, religious sites, diverse culture and food, to varying topography– from beaches in the south to several mountains above 8,000 metres, including the K-2, in the north. There is something to see for everyone from baby boomers to millennials.
Karachi recently hosted a wonderful international tourism expo. The aim was twofold: promote domestic tourism and portray Pakistan as a cultural corridor and pilgrims’ paradise to the wider world. A number of Asian, Middle Eastern and Persian countries also attended the event to attract potential Pakistani tourists. It was no surprise that the opportunity was also availed by the aviation, hospitality, and cargo fraternity to offer services to some of the 20,000 people who descended there.
Due to easy accessibility from almost every part of the city, Karachi’s Expo Centre was chosen as the venue. A huge space for car parking added value to the place. Preparations for the exhibition were going on for a long time. But, on the inauguration day, one could easily notice that things were not going that smooth.
Yet why the tourism industry has not flourished here points at a few questions. Is it the security or structural weaknesses and poor leadership that have locked the country out of the benefits that tourism can offer?
In order to get into the stream of activating this important segment of revenue generating terrain, the leadership will have to make up a mindset on the following norms:
Seriousness: It is very important that even before going ahead with such a plan, seriousness should be given top priority with complete determination, unless otherwise, all efforts towards this will be in futility.
Structural Change: A major structural change has to be taken. The existing law related to hotels and restaurants, and tour operators needs to be totally scrapped, and a new laws/acts has to be formulated.
The current law is more bureaucratic and can provoke corruption. Hence new law/act should be formulated incorporating an independent Council comprising of representatives from private sector, business stakeholders and the representative of the Ministry of Tourism; the composition to be 90% private and 10% government.
In order to start seeing results in the form of revenue dollars and influx of foreign tourists, we must first define how we want Pakistan to be positioned. What major assets should we focus on and what policies and tools can be used to enhance them? Is it sustainable that we seek or is it the quality and quantity of employment? How can Pakistan’s overall approach to tourism be made more dynamic? Do we even have a national tourism marketing strategy?
A comprehensive national tourism development strategy would require both macro-and micro-level investments in the tourism infrastructure itself, that is good transportation conditions, access to safe water, control of law and order, provision of trained workforce, efficient banking facilities and so on. A holistic development strategy would include all such physical and social infrastructure factors while employing sustainable approaches to business.
1) The Ministry of Tourism should develop image building plans to indoctrinate the tourist globally for removal of perception regarding Pakistan, as a lot of people worldwide have an impression that we have a lot of commotion and lawlessness.
2) The Ministry of Tourism should market/advertise globally our tourist sites like lakes, ocean, monuments, heritage properties from Mughal time, archeological sites such as Mohenjo Daro, Harappa Civilization, Indus Valley Civilization etc. Efforts be made to develop documentaries on these tourist attraction sites and these documentary films be shown globally in the respective local media of countries/cities where our embassies and consulates are located.
3) These tourist attraction sites should also be advertised via different marketing media such as hoardings and local transit transportation vehicles, in counties of potential tourists.
4) It should be made obligatory for all Pakistani missions abroad to promote Pakistan in every way and manner. Providing printed material of different tourist attraction sites, arrange seminars and exhibitions to disseminate information about our country’s culture, heritage and the places to visit in Pakistan.
5) Ministry of Tourism should arrange international tour operator’s exhibition, where tour operators around the globe to be invited to participate to see Pakistan as a world tourist destination. This should be an annual feature for years to come. Ministry should also occasionally arrange to get some global giants amongst the tour operators for familiarization trips of Pakistan. Such proactive events can stimulate bright future for the country.
On a macro level, investments need to be made in transportation systems and mid-tier hotels. Additionally, the tourism ministry must work as a separate autonomous entity without any overlap within other government departments to improve processes such as visas, permissions, and access to tourist destinations for foreign tourists’ security.
The primary job is to improve and strengthen web-access to hotels and airlines in Pakistan. Foreign tourists are used to online booking and not going through travel agents, anyone who searches for Pakistan must be redirected to a centralized portal that is resource-rich and easy-to-use.
Secondly, tourism is a people-driven industry. Effective tourism strategies can create sustainable income generating opportunities and provide employment needed to absorb large numbers of semi-skilled or unskilled workers.
A lot of Pakistani people work in the informal economy. Enhanced language and communication skills coupled with history lessons, for instance, could create seasonal employment for farmers as tour guides, ultimately, raising living standards.
Thirdly, host communities have to be empowered and equipped with more information and skills. Communities should know where their comparative advantage lies— whether it is in wildlife, hiking trails, or waterfalls, and focus their development strategy around it.
Lastly, keeping communities at the centre of such a development strategy will ensure local ownership of projects and help keep profits circulating within the economy.
he Pakistan’s contribution of Travel and Tourism in GDP in 2016 was 793.0 billion and this forecast raise to PRK 833.8 billion in 2017 which reflects the active role by travel and tourism, motels and buses and e-travel in boosting the economy.
According to World Travel and Tourism Council Report, the direct contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP is expected to grow by 5.6 percent pa to PKR1,432.1bn (2.7 percent of GDP) by 2027.
It reflects the ‘internal’ spending on Travel and Tourism (total spending within a particular spending by government on Travel and Tourism services directly linked to visitors, such as cultural ( museums) or recreational ( national parks).
The direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP is calculated to be consistent with the output, as expressed in National Accounting, tourists. It is calculated from total internal spending by ‘netting out’ the purchases made by the different tourism sectors.
This measure is consistent with the definition of Tourism GDP, specified in the 2008 Tourism Satellite The total contribution of Travel & Tourism includes its ‘wider impacts’ ( the indirect and induced impacts) on the economy.
Community-based tourism is more sustainable and helps to provide the type of genuine experience that most tourists are seeking. They should be sensitized on the fact that the beauty of the surroundings in which they live, the richness of their culture, and the warm hospitality they exude, attracts visitors in the first place, and thus they need to preserve those gifts of nature and history.
Internationally renowned mountaineer, Nazir Sabir has called for exploiting the full potentials of the tourism sector including adventure tourism in Pakistan by providing the visitors “on arrival visa” at the airports, in order to attract a good number of tourists for the benefit of the country.
“By facilitating the foreign tourists, Pakistan can fetch much needed precious foreign exchange, as the country offers tremendous opportunities and potentials in the field of tourism, especially in the trekking and adventure tourism sector”, he told APP here on Sunday.
Nazir Sabir belongs to Hunza Gilgit Baltistan and was the first Pakistani Mountaineer who had surmounted the world highest peak, the Mount Everest on May 17, 2000. He had also climbed the K-2 in 1981, the second highest peak in the world, besides climbing four 8000 meters peaks in Pakistan.
Nazir Sabir was currently visiting United Kingdom (UK) for attending an international Tourism and investment conference said that tourism was the second largest industry in the world but regretted that Pakistan is the home of five out of fourteen 8000-meter peaks and one of the best attractive and beautiful tourists’ destinations, the country was only able to get 5% of the worlds tourism share.
Nazir Sabir welcomed the policies and initiatives announced by the Prime Minister Imran Khan for the promotion of tourism in the country. He hoped these initiatives of the government would help boost tourism in Pakistan.
We all know the wealth hidden behind this important area of development. Unfortunately, we always come up with great plans for developing tourism sector, but they never get accomplished as our priorities keep on changing. It is about time that we should take bold steps with conviction and harvest the benefit.