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Published Date: Oct 28, 2020

Tourism revival strategy: gaps and policy actions

Introduction

Tourism has been almost non-operational in Pakistan since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. The country underwent a complete to smart lockdown after the closure of borders, suspension of air travel and other forms of transportation for foreign as well as local tourists. This has had implications on the tourism-related businesses, including a large group of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that earn their livelihoods through this sector.
Tourism contributes between 6-7 per cent of GDP in Pakistan (World Travel and Tourism Council [WTTC] 2020) and provides a little about two million jobs. In 2017, its contribution to GDP was 6.9 per cent. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone witnessed five million tourists in 2018 (Afzal 2020). However, this year tourism is likely to increase due to visits of foreign bloggers, influencers, the royal couple and consistent coverage and recommendation of Pakistan as an adventure destination (Abel 2020).
Now, when tourism has become the mainstay for much of northern Pakistan and SMEs operating in the tourism and transportation sectors have already been significantly affected, the impact of COVID-19 is yet to be evaluated. Initial reports suggest that in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone, the tourism sector will incur a revenue loss of $20 million (Afzal 2020).
This policy review aims to discuss the revival of tourism sector amidst COVID-19 and the preparation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to support the livelihoods of those associated with this sector.
Other areas that have been discussed in the study include: a) support required to tourism start-ups, b) public infrastructure interventions (through provincial budgets) necessary for this sector, and c) capacity gaps at various public sector and regulatory bodies dealing with tourism.