Tourism development in Pakistan should be taken seriously. It is a globally recognized fact that revenue generated through tourism activity has yielded more than any other sector of business. Tourism stands on the verge of coming of age and we must strive to make Pakistan a tourists’ destination; with the influx of tourists inevitably changing the entire outlook of our country. It will create employment, promote cottage industry and above all showcase Pakistan. If this situation is analyzed at a micro level even poverty can easily be eradicated.

If we make a comparison of revenue engendered between trade and tourism globally, tourism earnings are at the top. We have never taken this revenue generating segment of business conscientiously, in spite of the known fact that our country has some of the most beautiful sites, mountains, lakes, beaches, water-sports, and archeological sites.

In order to get into the stream of activating this important segment of revenue generating terrain, the leadership will have to make up a mindset on the following norms:

Seriousness: It is very important that even before going ahead with such a plan, seriousness should be given top priority with complete determination, unless otherwise, all efforts towards this will be in futility.

Structural Change: A major structural change has to be taken. The existing law related to hotels and restaurants, and tour operators needs to be totally scrapped, and a new laws/acts has to be formulated. The current law is more bureaucratic and can provoke corruption. Hence new law/act should be formulated incorporating an independent Council comprising of representatives from private sector, business stakeholders and the representative of the Ministry of Tourism; the composition to be 90% private and 10% government.

National Tourism Policy be evolved, which can act as a guide line of a national strategic policy, comprising regulatory and institutional frameworks, coving all aspects of tourism, including and not limited to the following:

1) For the growth of tourism, based on the projected influx of the travels/tourists, there will be a need to motivate the private sector to build more hotels of international standards all over Pakistan. In order to encourage investors, the National Tourism policy should comprise of some benefits like subsidies and tax relief on imports of machinery, equipment and material. The government should identify sites and make allotments for building hotels all over Pakistan.

2) The current and the upcoming hotels should be encouraged for capitalizing their investment, hence the overall taxation system needs to be reviewed in terms of central excise duty/ federal tax and the provincial bed tax, the tax/duty on imports, and the electricity tariff for the hotels.

3) The hotel room rates should have some based on a criterion, such as type of hotel, location of the hotel and the classification of the hotel and should maintain the rates as compared to the hotels offering internationally. These rates should be monitored by the Council and the Provincial Boards.

4) A monitoring cell should be formed for ensuring total compliance of the law for this important forex generating avenue.

5) Serving of liquor by the Hotels to the Non-Muslim travelers should be revisited for more simplified rules and regulations.

6) The National Tourism Policy should have sufficient incentives for the stakeholders of the industry, to stimulate the development of supply capacity in national and international markets.

Image Building:

1) The Ministry of Tourism should develop image building plans to indoctrinate the tourist globally for removal of perception regarding Pakistan, as a lot of people worldwide have an impression that we have a lot of commotion and lawlessness.

2) The Ministry of Tourism should market/advertise globally our tourist sites like lakes, ocean, monuments, heritage properties from Mughal time, archeological sites such as Mohenjo Daro, Harappa Civilization, Indus Valley Civilization etc. Efforts be made to develop documentaries on these tourist attraction sites and these documentary films be shown globally in the respective local media of countries/cities where our embassies and consulates are located.

3) These tourist attraction sites should also be advertised via different marketing media such as hoardings and local transit transportation vehicles, in counties of potential tourists.

4) It should be made obligatory for all Pakistani missions abroad to promote Pakistan in every way and manner. Providing printed material of different tourist attraction sites, arrange seminars and exhibitions to disseminate information about our country’s culture, heritage and the places to visit in Pakistan.

5) Ministry of Tourism should arrange international tour operators exhibition, where tour operators around the globe to be invited to participate to see Pakistan as a world tourist destination. This should be an annual feature for years to come. Ministry should also occasionally arrange to get some global giants amongst the tour operators for familiarization trips of Pakistan. Such proactive events can stimulate bright future for the country.

We all know the wealth hidden behind this important area of development. Unfortunately, we always come up with great plans for developing tourism sector, but they never get accomplished as our priorities keep on changing. It is about time that we should take bold steps with conviction and harvest the benefit.