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Tourism Challenges in Pakistan

There is no doubt Pakistan’s tourism industry has potential. It is blessed with pristine rivers, the largest range of mountains, lakes, glaciers, beautiful valleys, archaeological sites, lush forests, wide deserts and beaches which attracts local and foreign tourists from across the world. Unfortunately, Pakistan has been facing terrorism-related issues in the past which caused potential damage to its tourism industry and made tourism activities lessen countrywide.

The tourism industry is one of the most neglected industries in Pakistan. In order to attract more foreign tourists and to increase local tourism activities, we need to brand ourselves as a tourist-friendly country. It will increase employment opportunities, promote cottage industry which we are heavily depending on, attract more foreign investors and most importantly it will showcase a positive image of the country.

At the moment Pakistan is facing a major economic crisis, fighting against terrorism, political instability and street crimes, it is a lot to take in. However, there is still hope that we will win these wars against the above-stated issues. Today we decided to find out what are the core challenges that are holding Pakistan’s tourism industry back and what are their solutions.

Tourism Policy

Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) a federal tourism ministry is lacking serious tourism policy and depending on the outdated one which needs to be revamped immediately. Current laws for Motels/Hotels/Restaurants need to be discarded as soon as possible since they are bureaucratic and a core reason for corruption.

The government should encourage private sectors to promote tourism in Pakistan. Seriousness, complete determination and hard work are key, unfortunately, we take a few positive steps in the beginning then our priorities keep on changing. PTI-led GOVT took some positive initiatives recently including improvised visa policy for 55 countries (visa on arrival), e-visa policy for foreign tourists and opening the Governor houses for local and international tourists across the country.

Proper Infrastructure

Lack of proper infrastructure is the second failure which is causing huge damage to the tourism industry. Lack of well-designed roads, safe and affordable accommodations, international level of air transport, railway tracks, and other means of transportation is the basic building block of the successful tourism industry.

Pakistan government recently announced that they will restructure tourism policy for all tourism departments and uplift infrastructure which is a positive move. Apart from the announcement that has been made in previous Governments we hope that this new government will enforce its new policies in order to take the tourism industry to the next level.

Terrorism

Pakistan armed forces launched operation Zarb-e-Azb in 2014, the amount of terror attacks has been drastically reduced, the previous GOVT Led by PMLN played a key role in order to control terrorism but we must admit National Action Plan was not enforced properly which needs to be reviewed. The current government showed a keen interest in reinforcing National Action Plan against militant groups.

Baluchistan is a great tourist attraction but tourism activities are very rare, on the other hand, FATA including District of Swat is a great place to visit but due to terrorism and abduction of foreign nationalists, local and foreign tourists avoid these places.

Natural Disasters

Pakistan’s inability to cope with natural disasters is another reason the tourism industry is not flourishing. Be it; floods, earthquakes, cyclones, landslides and other natural disasters Pakistan is not ready to cope with any kind of causality. An example of an earthquake in 2005 which took thousands of lives and caused incomparable destruction to infrastructure could not be restored until now.

National disaster management authority (NDMA) should be equipped with modern technologies, tools, and human resource so that they can provide better services during any natural disaster in a timely manner.

Government Interest

Pakistan government is not playing a significant role in the development of the tourism industry. In spite of a known fact that the tourism industry contributes billion to any developing or developed country’s economy.

The government should develop their own model instead of following/copying Turkish, Singaporean and Iranian model. Because those models are specifically designed according to their environment and it may not work the same way it did for the mentioned countries. Government or local businesses should be encouraged to invest in the high tourist attraction areas.

Political Instability

Pakistan has consistently remained in a pivotal political crisis since its inception. This factor is not very important but somewhat plays a role in the tourism industry. For example stock exchange spiral downwards when the political condition in the country is unstable. When it is stable it goes upwards. Thus, it affects industry like tourism directly and indirectly.

Tourists are afraid to visit such countries. GOVT should work on stabilizing the political situation in the country.

Lack of Security

It is the prime responsibility of a state provide reasonable security to its citizens as well as tourists, we can also form separate law enforcement agencies the safety and security of the visitors. This will create more job opportunities as well.

Tourists often tend to visit countries that are safe and sound. A large number of tourists complained about security meanwhile on their tour in the past. Law and order related issues should be addressed by the GOVT of Pakistan on a priority basis.

Promotional Policies

This is one of the very important factors that can boost the tourism industry in Pakistan. The negative image of Pakistan portrayed by media to the outside world. However, there are a few vloggers, bloggers like us, and influencers who tried to sell a positive narrative. But this is insufficient, the government needs to play its role, it needs to show its seriousness.

Pakistan can market its tainted reputation as an inspirational story, how it used to be 10 years before braced in tons of problems including terrorism and how effectively it fought against all norms and where it is standing today. The government can also invite international celebrities, influencers, and other media persons to show the country’s hospitality, law and order situation, and beautiful destinations.

Not only we need to show a positive picture through social media, print media and word of mouth but we need to train our youth in structured tourist courses, to be tourist guides, certify and license them. We also need to make sure what we are selling a “positive narrative” a “next generation country” must be true in all forms otherwise tourists will be disappointed. Advertising through international travel and food magazine and websites can attract more tourists.

This can only be achieved when all the challenges mentioned above are addressed properly.

Standardization

PTDC needs to set standards for hotels, restaurants, and motels. In order to provide standard accommodation and food to tourists, we can set some criteria for hotels/restaurants and guest houses, a common solution is we can group them based on their location or type. Besides this, we need to set standard pricing for accommodation and food.

Religious Tourism

Religious tourism has a prominent place in the top trends of international tourism. Religion-based tourism contributes 18 billion US dollar globally each year. In Pakistan, there are many Hinduism religious sites like Hanglaj Temple, Katas Raj Temple, and Anandpur Temple, archeological sites like Takht-i-Bahi of ancient Buddhist monastery and Jaulian located in Taxila, sacred sites for the Sikh community, including Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, and the Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh.

Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated a new visa-free corridor between the gurdwara at Kartarpur and the Indian town of Dera Baba Nanak, about six kilometers away. Which is positive we need to take steps like these to attract more religion based tourism in Pakistan.

Final Thoughts on Tourism Challenges in Pakistan

Indeed Pakistan tourism industry has potential and with steps taken in the right direction can boost tourism. On the other hand perception against Pakistan is not positive in the western world, we need to make sure above stated issues are addressed properly and then market tourism industry across the world. Pakistan government should also publish a weekly or monthly magazine which includes tourist attractions and archaeological sites.

We also need to lift the condition of NOC’s which foreigners are obliged to get before visiting certain areas. This is understandable but if we focus on addressing core security issue first we can expand the tourism spots which will eventually boost revenue generated through tourism. Pakistan used to hold International tourism conference till 1998 every year, not one has been held ever since. We need to make we are holding it at least twice a year. Pakistani foreign missions should also play their role in promoting tourism in Pakistan.

We also need to build more five star hotels along the coast, Pakistan has the potential for water sports, fishing, scuba diving and jet skiing that needs to be utilized through proper marketing.

We might have missed a few issues, please let us in the comments below. Understanding the needs of tourists is key, providing more facilities in mountain regions can attract more domestic and foreign tourists. We hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as we did while reading. Spread the world and follow us on social media in order to keep yourself updated with the latest stories.

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