Promoting Tourism in Pakistan
There are certain advantages of promoting tourism in Pakistan. These advantages are mentioned in the following paragraphs one by one.
Tourism will promote soft image of Pakistan in the outer world. Pakistan has remained a terrorism-hit country for more than a decade. Owing to militancy and terrorism, our image in the international community has badly shattered. Now, as the law and order situation has improved, image of Pakistan can be improved with the promotion of tourism in the country. International tourists will visit the places of scenic beauty and historical significance, and make good memories of their stay in Pakistan. Tourism will make every tourist coming to Pakistan an ambassador of natural beauty of our country. In this way, soft image of Pakistan will be created among the foreign tourist communities.
Promoting tourism would have refreshing impact on Pakistan’s economy. According to the reports released by the World Travel and Tourism Council, which is an international forum set up primarily to conduct research on the economic and social impact of the tourism industry, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 was 7.6 billion US dollars, constituting 2.7 percent of the country’s total GDP. Though each country has its own size of economy, therefore, the particulars of economy of one country cannot be compared with those of other countries, it is also necessary to have a cursory look at the contributions of tourism industry to the GDP of other countries. The United States travel and tourism industry generated over 1.6 trillion dollars in 2017. In 2016, the tourism sector made a total contribution of around 159 billion euros to the GDP of Spain. Thus, there is a lot of room for improvement in the tourism industry to make it capable of contributing more to Pakistan’s GDP. If efforts are made to promote tourism in Pakistan, its share to our national GDP will dramatically increase.
Tourism industry creates business and employment opportunities. Business opportunities include hotels, travel agencies, tourism advisory centres, transport industry, and sale of items on the tourist points. Employment opportunities are created in all these areas of business. Tourism accounts for nearly 40 percent of all employment opportunities in Maldives. Unfortunately in Pakistan, the size of tourism industry is small and employment and business opportunities it offers are limited. If the tourism industry is promoted in Pakistan following the example of Maldives, it would create ample business and employment opportunities.
Another advantage of promoting tourism in Pakistan would be that the indigenous culture would be promoted worldwide. When the foreign tourists interact with the native culture of an area, they get impressed from certain characteristics of the local culture and adopt some of them. For example, hospitality is the trait of the culture of the Rural Sindh. Many foreign and local tourists get impressed from this trait. In the same way, cuisine and delicacies of certain areas are copied and they are taken by the tourists to their home countries. This practice creates good image of the people living in the vicinity of the tourist spot on the one hand, and on the other, it creates multicultural acceptance or interaction of different cultures. Thus, as the tourism is promoted in Pakistan, it will promote the local culture worldwide.
Infrastructure will automatically be developed around the tourist spots as efforts are made to promote tourism in Pakistan. It implies that new roads will be constructed and new service centres developed. New hotels, restaurants and rest areas will be made. Arrangements for air travel or travelling by rail will have to be made. Electricity and gas connections will have to be established. Thus, every effort that is made to promote tourism in Pakistan will develop the tourist areas. Promotion of tourism and development in the tourist areas are interrelated and exist together.
Last but not least, the local population will develop civic sense because of their interaction with much civilized foreign tourists who have higher civic sense. The foreign tourists carry along with them excellent traits of their personality and culture. They possess very good communication skills and aesthetic sense. Interaction of local people with the foreign tourists exposes them to best kind of civic sense, aesthetic values and communication skills. It is said that the exposure is the best guide. Thus, in this way, the local inhabitants develop civic sense among them, thanks to their dealing with the foreign tourists.
These were the advantages of promoting tourism in Pakistan. Now I will discuss some of the opportunities in this context.
There are so many places of scenic beauty which, if developed, may attract a large number of foreign and local tourists. Pakistan has numerous tourist attractions such as Swat, Kalam, Malam Jabba, Shangla, Balakot, Ayubia, Murree, Chitral, Gilgit, Naran and Kaghan. Other places of natural beauty are Soan Valley, Kalar Kahar and Galyat. There are certain spots which are situated in the vicinity of hot areas but have very pleasant weather because of height. Gorakh Hill in District Dadu of Sindh and Fort Munro near Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab are the examples. All the places mentioned above have very pleasant weather and offer natural beauty to the visitors. Lake Saiful Muluk near Naran, and Banjosa Lake present the most beautiful view of nature to their visitors. These places of scenic beauty having good weather provide an excellent opportunity for attracting foreign and local tourists.
Historical heritage offers another opportunity for the promotion of tourism in Pakistan. There are many places of historical significance which include Badshahi Mosque, Wazir Khan Mosque, Mahabat Khan Mosque, Lahore Fort and Rohtas Fort. Badshahi Mosque was built by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1671 – the construction of the mosque lasted for two years until 1673. It is a splendid masterpiece of Mughal architecture. Wazir Khan Mosque located in the city of Lahore and built in 1641 during the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan is another example of Mughal architecture. Rohtas Fort is a 16th-century structure built during the reign of Sher Shah Suri and is located near the city of Jhelum in the province of Punjab. There are many other worth-seeing historical places in Pakistan like Begum Shahi Mosque, Hiran Minar and Tomb of Jahangir. All these places, if properly promoted on the electronic and print media, will attract a great number of tourists.
Archaeological sites will open another door for tourists to be in Pakistan. There are numerous archaeological sites in Pakistan which can be great tourist attractions. Examples of such archaeological sites are Mohenjo Daro, Harappa, Sirkap city in Taxila, Katas Raj temples, Kot Diji in District Khairpur, Takht-i-Bahi and many other places. Mohenjo Daro, being one of the largest cities of the Indus Valley civilization, was built around 2500 BC (Before Christ) and remained undocumented for over 3000 years until archaeologists discovered it in the early 1920s. Harappa located near Sahiwal city in the province of Punjab was another city of Indus Valley Civilization. Harappa is said to be founded around 2600 BC. Ancient Taxila whose origin as a city goes back to 1000 BC was an important city of Ancient India. There are many other archaeological sites which have attraction for the tourists having interest in archaeology.
National monuments are another opportunity to attract tourists. Examples of some important national monuments are Quaid-e-Azam Residency, Pakistan Monument, Allama Iqbal’s tomb, Islamic Summit Minar and Minar-e-Pakistan. Quaid-e-Azam Residency, also called Ziarat residency located in Ziarat, Balochistan, is the place where Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah spent the last few weeks of his life. Pakistan Monument located in Islamabad was constructed to symbolize the unity of the Pakistani people. It is an important tourist destination. Minar-e-Pakistan was built in 1960s on the site in Lahore where the All-India Muslim League passed the Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940 – the first official commitment for a separate and independent homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. All these national monuments are very important tourist destinations which attract the tourists having interest in the history of Pakistan.
Game reserves in Pakistan are very important tools to lure the rich tourists, especially those interested in hunting. There are many locations in Pakistan which have been marked as game reserves. There are around 80 game reserves in Pakistan. These game reserves are huge terrains where wildlife survives securely and favourable ecosystem is provided to support the conservation and growth of the wildlife. Hunting is allowed in a controlled way in lieu of payment to the government exchequer. These game reserves can attract rich foreign dignitaries who may be allowed to hunt a limited number of animals or birds without endangering the survival of the species in exchange for payment to the government treasury.
From the point of view of religious tourism, Pakistan is also blessed because there are so many holy places for the followers of other religions who visit such places as religious duty. For example, the pilgrimage undertaken by the Sikh community to Pakistan has great spiritual significance for them. Baba Guru Nanak – the founder of Sikh religion was born and lived at the place presently known as Nankana Sahib – a city near Lahore which has the oldest and the most revered of all Sikh Gurdwaras. It is here in Pakistan where Maharaja Ranjit Singh – the greatest Sikh ruler rose to glory. His birthplace remains preserved in Gujranwala – a city near Lahore. Sikh yatris (pilgrims) visit their holy places in Pakistan on three occasions: one on Besakhi in April, second on the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in June and third on the birthday of Baba Guru Nanak in November. Opening of Kartarpur Corridor by Pakistan on the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak is a step that deserves appreciation. In addition to this, there are many significant religious places for the followers of Buddhism in Pakistan. If this opportunity of religious tourism is exploited, it will add to the volume of the tourism industry in Pakistan.
There are many shrines of famous Sufi saints in Pakistan – some of them host traditional festivals and fairs which attract thousands of visitors. Apart from these fairs, thousands of persons pay visit to these shrines. Shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh Ali Hajveri in Lahore, shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi, shrine of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, Jamshoro, and shrine of Fariduddin Ganjshakar in Pakpattan are the examples of famous shrines. There are dozens of other shrines which are situated in Pakistan. Annual festivals called Urs are held on the shrines of these sufi saints where thousands of people gather. A large amount of revenue is collected from the donations of the people visiting these shrines. If efforts are made in the right direction, these shrines and festivals may attract greater number of visitors.
Diverse geographical landscape offers a very unique opportunity which needs to be exploited in order to increase the size of tourism industry in Pakistan. It has beautiful valleys, lakes, rivers and mountains. Junction of the three of the world’s most formidable ranges — Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Himalayas — is located in Pakistan which is an important tourist destination for trekkers and mountaineers. There are other mountain ranges in Pakistan like Safed Koh, Sulaiman Mountains, Salt Range and Kirthar Range. Five of the fourteen highest peaks in the world are in Pakistan – K2 being at 8611 metres above sea level the highest mountain in Pakistan and the second highest in the world. Pakistan has beautiful valleys, rivers and deserts. Pakistan has four seasons round the year because of its diverse landscape which is a great opportunity that requires to be tapped so that tourism can be promoted.
To conclude, it can be stated that promoting tourism is in the best interest of Pakistan as there are numerous opportunities. We can still exploit these opportunities to promote tourism in Pakistan. In the beginning, some advantages of tourism which include creation of softer image of Pakistan, contribution to the GDP, business and employment opportunities, and promotion of local culture were discussed. Opportunities in the tourism industry were illustrated in detail. There are many places which have scenic beauty; some have historical and archeological significance, and many places in Pakistan are sacred for other religions. Game reserves and diverse geographical landscape may attract a great number of tourists. Exploiting these opportunities would have many advantages for Pakistan. Policymakers should take measures to tap the potential of this unexploited area of our economy.