In a heartening change of pace, and a herald of the improving state of security and terrorism at an ebb, the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has highlighted a bloom in tourism in Pakistan. Where the report touts a rise in tourism at both domestic and foreign levels, the government can harness these winds of positive change to implement more robust tourism programs and policies at both provincial and federal levels to ensure growth in this sector. The revenue from tourism contributes to around $19.4 billion to Pakistan’s economy, which if cultivated could increase thrice over.
With the devolution of the responsibility and implementation of tourism to the provinces, the sector had faced deep neglect in the absence of effective provincial tourism policies and inadequate infrastructure to attract domestic and international tourists. Yet the province that stands out and can serve as forerunner in organically reviving this sector is Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as an emerging hotspot for tourism. The KP government has invested billions on basic facilities for attracting domestic tourists in the province, boosting the number of tourists to 20m from 8m.
With tourist spots and accommodations gaining traction through social media, and with development funds allocated from the federal and provincial budget, tourism should be made a national priority, with empowering PTDC as a financially viable organisation.
Where the provinces have identified sites to develop tourism facilitation centres, the real impediment is the lack of cohesive policies to attract tourists. To prioritize tourism, the establishment must redirect funds to tackle deterrents like inadequate infrastructure, negative travel advisory to international tourists, boarding and lodging, poor connectivity through air and road, visa requirements, poor tour operators and no skilful workers in the industry.
There needs to be a complete redress of marketing and branding to attract tourists. Other measures include a revival of tax concessions in hotel expenditures, land being offered on lease, taxes being rationalised to develop hotels and a formal institute to train and develop human resource for tourism services. The federal government also needs to coordinate with provinces in promoting tourism at international level.