Potential and need of promoting tourism in Pakistan
The continuous growth in global tourism has amplified the significance of the sector for world economies. Modern tourism is promoting socioeconomic progress through employment creation in several sectors.
receipts from tourism were $364.2 million in 2018. In terms of employment, 2.4 percent of the total employment is engaged with the travel and tourism industry in Pakistan.
According to the World Economic Forum report on Travel and Tourism Competiveness, which is based on enabling environment, travel and tourism policy, infrastructure and natural and cultural resources, Pakistan currently ranks at 121st,showing the least ranking in South Asia. The reasons also include least favourable safety and security environment for tourists. However, the ranking has improved over the years, as in 2015 Pakistan ranked at 125th and at 124th in 2017. Pakistan ranked at 112 out of 132 in government prioritisation of travel and tourism sector. Nevertheless, the current government is focusing on the sector through taking certain initiatives. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa(KP) government plans to repatriate more than 3,000 historical artifacts to attract tourists in the region. The KP government has also recently launched the first tourism mobile app for tourism promotion in the region. The app includes the information based on hotels and restaurants, fuel stations and roads; it will be a guiding tool for tourists. Such initiatives can be replicated in other provinces to attract and promote tourism.
The Punjab government has recently devised a tourism policy that focuses on promoting more than 20 sectors. Under the Punjab Tourism for Economic Growth Project, the provincial government will spend $50 million for harmonising tourism in line with international standards.
Pakistan has six UNESCO World Heritage sites that can be utilised to attract tourists. Spain tops the world’s list of most travel-ready nations since 2015, based on its natural and cultural resources, which are promoted through medieval festival and contemporary art. Pakistan has religious sites that are highly attractive for Buddhist and Sikh tourists. The recently published report by Gallup shows a sharp increase of tourists from 1.6 million in 2014 to 6.6 million in 2018 at the cultural sites in Pakistan.UK Sikhs have shown their commitment to invest 500 million pound in Pakistan for religious tourism, which if materialises will be a huge boost for Pakistan’s economy in terms of tourism promotion and exchange revenue.
The tourism industry is contributing 2.8 percent towards GDP of Pakistan; total receipts from tourism were $364.2 million in 2018
Security situation is a major impediment in tourism development. Although the situation has improved immensely over the last few years, extensive efforts are still required to uplift the image of Pakistan at the international level. Considering the significance, India is investing heavily in digital and physical security to attract tourists. Infrastructure improvement is required to provide facilitation to tourists; countries like Spain spent millions of euros in the last decade to improve roads, railways and airports infrastructure.
Branding through national and international marketing is vital for which social media engagement can be an effective tool. Service delivery component, which is based on human resource, is quite important in the sense that travel guides and hospitality industry staff has direct interaction with tourists and guests. Short courses and special certification in hospitality industry can develop human resource essential for effective customer services.
China has the highest number of tourists that travel across the world; in 2017, 143 million tourists made their journeys abroad. Many countries are now focusing especially on attracting Chinese tourists due to their massive number. Abu Dhabi has devised a policy to attract Chinese tourists through roadshows and promotional exhibitions in China, and collaboration with Chinese tour operators is also a part of the strategy. Mongolia organised a Chinese culture and tourism festival. Iran waives visa requirements for Chinese tourists. Being a neighbouring country and a friend, Pakistan can attract Chinese tourists through better marketing of religious sites and providing necessary security.
Earlier this year, the government announced to grant e-visa facility to 175 countries within a processing time of seven-ten working days, while provision of business visa for 98 countries is also part of the initiative. This is a very promising step as countries like Ethiopia earn $7.4 billion in 2018, showing a boost of 48.6 percent in their tourist industry through relaxed visa rules.
Pakistan can also follow the best practices to develop a tourism sector that not only possesses immense potential but will also promote the soft image of the country along with providing foreign earnings and jobs creation.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.