A country with diverse cultures and natural beauty, Pakistan is a heaven for any tourist. From snowcapped peaks and frozen lakes to serene valleys and beautiful shores, interspersed with the ruins of ancient civilizations and Mughal monuments, Pakistan is full of breathtaking views.
Moreover, the religious sites of Hindus and Sikhs are a source of attraction for pilgrims. Religious tourism plays a vital part in boosting economic activities in the country. Old Hindu and Sikh Temples, mainly the shrine of Guru Nanak, are visited by thousands. With the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, even more religious tourists will arrive in Pakistan.
In addition to all this, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is another opportunity Pakistan should be looking to make most out of in order to increase its tourism. Under CPEC, numerous infrastructure and power projects are being developed in the country, which will offer more facilities to travelers. In addition, the Chinese spend a great share of their earnings on sightseeing and easier travel to Pakistan will encourage them to visit the country and avail themselves of its natural beauty.
Pakistan has clear attractions for locals and foreigners alike. But terrorism and a lack of facilities had hamstrung tourism in Pakistan in the past. Previous governments did not bother much boosting this potential industry. They spent little effort to highlight the positive image of the country and neglected the essential steps needed to enhance the tourism sector. Foreigners hesitated to visit Pakistan, considering it a war-stricken, intolerant, and ultraconservative country.
But, recently, there has been a laudable improvement in the tourism industry. Enhanced security conditions are perhaps the key reason for ever-increasing numbers of tourists.
Another important development is a new visa policy, which offers e-visas and visa on arrival to tourists. Pakistan has also abolished the requirement for No-Objection Certificates (NOCs) to visit certain parts of the country. Besides this, the government is also converting its rest houses and palatial buildings to hotels, offering more charming accommodations to visitors. The Tourism Coordination Board is yet another measure taken to capitalize on the potential of Pakistan’s tourism sector and increase the inflow of wealth in the country.
Likewise, the growing hospitality industry of Pakistan is building up the trust of sightseers. International hotel chains are expanding their services and the entrepreneurs are launching innovative ways to serve guests.
Alongside these developments, international travel bloggers and vloggers are visiting the country and showing the true nature of Pakistan and the hospitality of its people. The revival of sports in Pakistan is also helping to clear the security concerns.
These developments have helped to present a softer image of the country. The high-profile royal visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge contributed to this trend.
As a result of all these factors, some of the world’s most reputable magazines and societies are encouraging people to tour Pakistan. Forbes considered Pakisytan to be “one of the coolest places to go” in 2019. In 2017, the British Backpacker Society, in ranking Pakistan as its best adventure travel destination, described it as “one of the friendliest countries on earth, with mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.”
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government's efforts to promote tourism promotion have started yielding results as Traveller by Condè Nast, one of the world's best travel portals, has listed Pakistan as one of the top tourist destinations for 2020. Though more tourists are visiting Pakistan now, still there’s a long way to go.
The number of extremely tall mountains in the region — “more than China and Nepal combined”. Even the drive north on the Karakoram Highway wins praise. The opportunity to mingle with the Kalash people was also mentioned.
Southern parts of the country did not earn much praise, save for Lahore and, indirectly, other cities and towns in Punjab and K-P featuring “Mughal-era architectural masterpieces. While many a Karachiite would be deeply offended that their city did not even get a mention, it is more surprising that areas such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, and many other locations with historical value were overlooked. It was probably space restrictions for the article. Still, it would be best if our tourism managers at federal and provincial levels look into what can be done to encourage tourism in such places and eco-tourism elsewhere. The piece reserves special praise for the Gilgit-Baltistan and the north in general while taking note of.
Even though tourism in Pakistan is on the rise, there are several remaining concerns for vacationers that need to be addressed by the government. A better international portrayal of Pakistan is also needed to help its nascent tourism industry.
Let us hope that the positive steps in this regard will continue, governmental efforts will bear sweet fruits, and Pakistan will become the dream destination of every nature-lover.
Abdul Moeez Mirza