By Bilal Ahmad
One of the news which recently created quite a media storm was that, a UK based travel company has listed Pakistan among the top travel destinations in 2020. Apparently it is a very good news but the ground situation is as worst as it has remained in the last two decades. Neither of provinces have taken any major initiatives for developing tourism.
There was some hope in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which was shattered when the provincial minister of tourism was sacked. Mr Atif Khan (ex-minister of tourism) had taken several vital steps particularly in the different international forums for developing tourism in the province. Though tourist influx might increases, this would be insignificant as the statistics have shown in the previous years.
After the war on terror and subsequent law and order situation, Pakistan needed a viable tourism policy and investment on the tourism infrastructure particularly in the northern areas. In the last couple of years Swat, Dir and Chitral have been visited by millions of local tourists during summers but have been disappointed to see the standard of facilities.
It is a fact that Pakistan’s Northern areas do not have the capacity to accommodate and entertain large number of International tourists: The number of accommodation facilities of international standards is limited, there is shortage of trained guides and porters and ironically the government is lacking interest in tourism sector which is a game changer in the economy of many developing countries having less attractive tourism destinations and potential than Pakistan.
Pakistan tourism revenues were recorded to be $875mn in comparison to $3177mn in India and $3,914mn) in Iran. Countries like Srilanka $3592mn and Tajikistan $172mn are far better than Pakistan raising handsome revenues.
Pakistan has been bestowed with abundant ecological wealth, majestic mountains, rich cultures and scenic beauty. Considerable time has passed after the war on terror and Pakistan’s image has emerged as safe spot for tourism. It’s now the time to take stringent steps and focus on this sector realizing the harsh financial situation through which the country is passing.
The local stakeholders can provide useful feedback to government in policy formulation if taken on board which can yield fruitful results. At the current scenario it seems not possible to allocate heavy amount for tourism sector but it can attract investors in this sector with a plan to generate employment and revenues.
Some of the tourism types particularly adventure tourism and eco-tourism haven’t been projected at the international level which have great potential and significance in the tourism industry.In the past Pakistan has worked on PTDC Motels and public guest houses in various parts of the country, and a large number of which have been reported to be in dormant condition requiring rehabilitation.
These buildings after rehabilitation and furnishing can be utilized to generate revenues. In addition to these the capacity of human resource requires to be developed focusing different tourism types keeping in view the type of tourists visiting different areas. In developing tourism we cannot neglect the importance of domestic tourism as it is highly lucrative for local development particularly the rural areas of Pakistan where livelihood sources are limited.
Least portion of population is involved in the tourism industry in these areas whom need to be engaged for accruing benefits. To sum up tourism in this time through minor steps and resource allocation can play pivotal role in national as well as local development.
(The author, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a freelance research consultant.)