Tourism situation in Pakistan
Pakistan attracted just around two million foreign tourists in 2017. In the same duration, Turkey had a record season with 37 million foreign tourists. It is futile to compare ourselves with well-established tourist destinations like Spain (75m) and Italy (53m). China had 60 million tourists and India for the first time in its history hit the 10 million mark in 2017. Tourism has become an essential source of revenue generation. The tourism industry was responsible for 10.2% of the global GDP in 2017. In Turkey, tourism accounted for 20% of its total GDP. According to India’s tourism minister, New Delhi earned $27 billion for the year 2017 from the arrival of foreign tourists alone. According to the World Tourism and Travel Council, the direct contribution of tourism to Pakistan was only 2.7% of the GDP, which is abysmal by any standards. Terrorism and the law and order situation are the biggest impediments to the arrival of foreign tourists.
The tourism industry works on brand and repute, and It seems challenging to visit a country that has high-security risks. However, it is easy to blame the lofty law and order situation for the abysmal performance of the tourism industry in Pakistan. As we see, the rate of foreign tourists was also not as encouraging even before the 9/11 incident. The problem is multi-pronged. The government and the private sector go hand in hand in the tourism industry. The government is responsible for a broader policy that lures foreign tourists to the country while the private sector pitches in to cater to tourists on the ground. Most of the tourism-related activities in Pakistan are happening on account of local tourism. There has been a steady increase in local tourism with 38.3 million local tourists reported by the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation in the last year. However, the tourism industry has even failed to cope with the influx of these local tourists. Consider going to Murree on a public holiday to enjoy the snow. One definitely will be stuck somewhere on the way. If by chance one reaches the destination, it will be an uphill task to get a reasonable room for the night with basic amenities such as warm water, good food, and heating. The aforesaid is just one of the many aspects of our ailing tourism industry. Another impediment is to get a visa to visit, Pakistan is one of the hardest countries in terms of visa approvals. The extra checks and security clearance takes a long, but on the other hand, this has triggered adverse effects on the tourism industry. The government has tried to fix this problem by announcing visa-free entry to 30 tourist-friendly countries. This visa-friendly visa issuance policy may help increase the confidence of foreign tourists. In today’s world, most foreign tourists travel through e-visa. Next, in line, the challenge is branding. Each country brands itself extensively to the world. For India, it is ‘Incredible India’ and the Taj Mahal as its face, and for Malaysia, it is ‘Malaysia Truly Asia.’ However, Pakistan has not made any such effort. Finally, for every tourist-friendly country, the most accessible transportation is essential, starting from direct air routes to intercity as well as intra-city connectivity. It is difficult to imagine a life in London without its ‘underground trains’ or connectivity in Istanbul without its tram and metro. Pakistan needs newer modes of mass transit. In this regard, the Orange Line Train in Lahore is a step in the right direction. It has suggested that other cities will also try to bring innovation to ease massive congestion on the roads.
Factors influence the Tourism
Whether someone is traveling for business or pleasure, the level of customer service or Hospitality they receive on their trip will help determine whether they come back for another visit or warns their friends to avoid their trips to that country. Travelers, after all, have a ton of options when they leave home.
A good climate is one of the most important features of attraction for any tourist place. A pleasant climate with warmth and ample sunshine attracts tourists who come from temperate and colder regions. For example, most of the seaside resorts in the U.S.A and the U.K are located in a warmer southeast. On the other hand, people from summer areas migrate to cooler regions to seek the pleasure of cold fresh environments. For instance, in India places like Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar near Mumbai, Kullu, and Manali, Shillong, Kashmir, so on are well-known for their cool and pleasant climate. Other countries with cooler climates that attract tropical tourists are Switzerland, Sweden, etc.
Socio Economic Factor
Accessibility: It has also assumed that all tourist centers should be easily accessible by various modes of transportation like roads, railways, air, and water. To enjoy nature's beautiful sites seeing traveling by roads and railways is a better option. If a tourist plans to reach a remote tour-destination in the quickest possible time, then an airway is the most suitable choice. Generally, waterways are seldom selected unless a tourist decides to enjoy a luxury cruise experience in sea and interested in visiting an isolated archipelago.
Accommodation: Places of tourists' interest must be capable enough to provide reasonable accommodation and catering facilities. The type of accommodation required by tourists depends on their lives-styles, standard of living, the capacity to spend money, nature of services expected. Classification of accommodation centers (i.e., various hotels Five star to three-star, motels, dormitories) on basic of rating like five stars and below are essential so that tourists can make a proper choice and plan their trips appropriately. Generally, tourism mostly prospers in those areas where good lodging and food facilities are available at reasonable prices. It should be sure that there is a proper balance between space available for accommodation and no of tourist visit to avoid any inconvenience for the tourists
Amenities: Growth of tourism at a particular place also influenced crucial factors like; how well the site has maintained for touring activities like skiing, roping, paragliding, rowing, fishing, surfing, safari adventure. Whether emergency facilities are available or not, so on.
Another crucial point is a different people visit Pakistan from different countries and multiple linguistic backgrounds. In order to increase their understanding level, technological aid for translations shall be available.
Ancillary services: If a tourist destination has equipped by ancillary (supplementary) services like banking and finance, the Internet and telecom connectivity, hospitals, insurance, so on, then such a place succeeds to hold (retain) more tourists for a longer time. This overall helps to boost the local economy to some extent.
Historical and cultural factors
Many tourists are attracted to places of historical significance and that which have a legacy of rich cultural heritage. People love and enjoy exploring destinations where there are famous ancient monuments, marvelous forts, castles, and palaces of earlier kings and queens. Examples of places that are famous throughout the world for their historical and cultural accounts are; Taj Mahal in India, Nazca lines and Machu Picchu in Peru, Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, Great Wall of China, and Stonehenge in England.
Religious Tolerance is a factor that also plays a vital role in tourism. People from different countries visit Pakistan. Sometimes these visitors include Jews Sikhs and Hindus. People of the host country should have enough tolerance to bear their deeds if they upset them or against their culture. It portrays a positive image in the global tourism market.
Tourist points in Pakistan
Pakistan is enriched in both natural and human-made places for tourism. Pakistan is a land blessed with enormously rich historical heritage, diverse culture, high adventure, and unmatched natural beauty. From the relics of great Civilizations of Gandhara and Indus to gigantic icy peaks, lush green valleys, meadows, and lakes of crystal clear waters, Pakistan has a unique and contrasted destination to behold the caravan of humankind across ages and precious beauties of nature, to the tourists of the world.
Recommendations to improve Tourism in Pakistan
Tourism in Pakistan has undoubtedly immense potential given our diverse culture, heritage, and natural endowment. However, for now, it is a missed opportunity owing to multiple reasons including the war-on-terror, minimal marketing, sick public, and private sector infrastructure and services
- Promote Pakistan as ‘Asia ‘s best secret kept’ in the global tourism market. To portray the image of Pakistan as a country that contains all colors of nature, culture, and other aspects.
- Develop 20 new tourist destinations in 5 years; 4 each year Implement a framework to incentive private sector investments in upgradation and development of new facilities which in particular encourage “themed” tourism such as eco-tourism and other special incentives
- Open all government guest houses to the public to accommodate the tourists.
- Undertake the uplift of our accommodation infrastructure and transport services across all, from hotels to 5-star facilities to Increase Connectivity.
- Aggressively encourage entrepreneurship, especially by SMEs, to boost economic value and job creation in the tourism industry
- Improve processes to issue tourist visas, in particular for groups and champion initiatives, which strengthen our visa on arrival program while keeping some countries on. scrutiny i.e., India and Israel.
- Eliminate NOC conditions for high potential tourist destinations (as has already happened in Malakand).
- Support TVETA curriculum and institute development to upskill human capital in hospitality to fill the supply side deficit of skilled labor.
Ranking of tourist spots should be done while keeping different of areas in consideration like Hotels, Area linkages, no of tourist visit on annually, etc. The ranking should be done to define which area or spot is more worthy of visiting.