Tourism in Pakistan

 

Tourism is one of the most rapidly growing industries in the world, which accounts for 10 per cent of the global GDP. It is an important source of income generation, job creation, poverty reduction, foreign exchange earnings and promotion of cross-cultural understanding
and cooperation.

According to the World Tourism Organisation, This year’s theme aims to highlight tourism’s role in a brighter energy future; a future in which the world’s entire population has access to modern, efficient and affordable energy services.

Tourism, one of the world’s largest economic sectors, has already taken important steps towards this future – improving energy efficiency and increasingly using renewable energy technologies in its operations. These steps are creating jobs, lifting people out of poverty and helping to protect the planet.

Tourism comprises several service activities including transportation, communication, hospitality, catering, entertainment and advertising. It is on the quality of these services that the effectiveness of tourism promotion efforts depends.

Pakistan has tremendous potential for tourism by virtue of its long rich history, cultural diversity, geo-strategic position and captivating landscapes. The tourism products offered by the country can be categorized into four types:

1. Religious Tourism
2. Archaeological and historical Tourism
3. Adventure Tourism
4. Conventional Tourism

A brief account of these is given as under:

Religious Tourism:

Pakistan is the crucible of thee of the great religions of the world Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism-and cradle of another, Sikhism. Gurdwaras at Nankana Sahib and Hasanabdal are a great attraction for Sikhs all over the globe. Then there are shrines of Sufis and saints, which attract a large number of pilgrims from different regions. These include the shrines of Shah Hussain, Mian Mir, Bahauddin Zakaria and Baba Farid in Punjab, and Lal Shahbaz
Qalandar and Shah Abdul Latif Bhattai in Sindh.

Archaeological Tourism:

Pakistan is the cradle of two ancient civilizations-the Indus Valley Civilization and the Gandhara Civilization. In particular, the excavations of the Gandhara civilization represent one of the oldest remains of the Buddhist culture in Asia and are of special spiritual
significance for the Buddhists living in the affluent regions of East and South East Asia. Then there are monuments built by successive dynasties and rulers, particularly the Mughals. These include the Royal Fort, Badshahi Mosque, Shalimar Garden, Tombs of Emperor Jehangir and Empress Noor Jehan, Rohtas Fort and the Shah Jahan Mosque.

Adventure Tourism:

Pakistan has some of the world’s highest mountains in a knot of four great mountain ranges, the Hindu Kush, Pamir, Karakoram and the Himalayas. The country has the distinction of having five peaks above 8,000 meters each including the second loftiest mountain of K-2. The country also has the largest glaciers on the globe outside the polar region. These mountains and glaciers offer a tremendous attraction for adventurers.

Conventional tourism:

This form of tourism includes festivals, sports, customs, traditions and arts and crafts. Among the festivals, Basant is arguably the most popular from international tourism perspective. Celebrated in February-March to herald the spring, Basant attracts a large
number of foreign tourists. Pakistan however has not yet actualized its tremendous tourism potential. This is evident from the country’s tourist receipts and arrivals as compared with those in the world and

South Asia. Thus Pakistan’s share in both global tourist arrivals and receipts is less than 1 per cent, while its share in South Asian tourist arrivals in only 9 per cent.

The poor tourism performance of Pakistan can be attributed to the following factors:

  1. Arguably, the greatest obstacle to the growth of tourism is the law and order situation. During last one decade, Pakistan has been subject to religious and ethnic violence in which a number of foreigners have been targeted. The bad law and order situation has told upon various sectors of the economy including tourism. There are also many instances where tourists have been physically assaulted, robbed and sexually harassed. Any such incident reflects badly on the country and creates a negative image of it.
  2. Though Pakistan has one of the most attractive physical environments in the world its social environment is not much tourism friendly. While on a foreign land, tourists want best
    value for their money. They look for an environment in which they can enjoy themselves to the full. This is possible only if all the ingredients of enjoyment are present with the least invasion of privacy. This does not mean that we should completely abandon our cultural values. However, we should strike a balance between our values and the demand of the international consumer. In particular, piracy of foreign tourists should be fully respected.
  3. Pakistan does not have a good international image. Rather there are many places where the country’s image is one of intolerance, extremism, insecurity, superstitions, and diseases. Image building is a matter of both perception and reality. The reality in Pakistan
    is not as bad as the perception of it. Therefore, besides improving the tourism environment, there is a great need to erase the negative perception about the country. This is primarily the responsibility of Pakistan’s missions abroad.
  4. The tourism sector lacks of market-oriented approach. Consumers differ in their needs and tastes and have different levels of satisfaction. The same can be applied to tourism.  Tourists intending to visit Pakistan for pilgrimage have different needs from tourists visiting to celebrate the Basant festival. Therefore, there is little sense in offering the same package to all tourists. Instead, tourism packages have to be adapted to tourists, peculiar needs and tastes. This means that the foremost job of tourism promotion agencies is to identify target markets, study their tastes and needs and then offer tourism products that satisfy the same. The language and content of the promotional material and campaign should also be tailored to tourists’ needs and interests. For instance, there is a large
    potential market of East Asian tourists for the Buddhist heritage. What is needed is proper marketing by Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation and the country’s commercial
    representatives in the region to attract these potential tourists. This no doubt is a laborious task but it is worth doing, because a market-oriented strategy is essential to tourism promotion.
  5. Communication and hospitality infrastructure is in need of up gradation. Bad roads, flight cancellation and delays, lack of connectivity to various locations, and deficient communication facilities are among the factors that discourage tourists. As for
    accommodation, there are many places where hotels are either non-existent or do not offer value-added services.
  6. Tourism has largely been given a short shrift by the government. The government has not been alive to the immense opportunities that this sector of the economy offers. That is why government actions have been reactive rather than pro-active, particularly when it comes to giving incentives to other stakeholders including travel agencies and the hospitality industry. Since tourism is a heavy investment area, it cannot be entirely left to the public
    sector. The private sector must be encouraged to play its role in tourism promotion through tariff and tax relief and availability of low interest finance.

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