Pakistan’s tourism industry is one of the most affected sectors due to COVID-19. Notably, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) tourism industry incurred significant losses. The KP Tourism Department Spokesperson Latif-ur-Rehman on Saturday revealed that the province lost Rs10 billion due to the pandemic. As predicted, the lockdown for many months and all-out restrictions on travel hit the industry hard.

Many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) operating in the tourism sector are significantly affected by the measures that the government took against the spread of the pandemic. Apart from the financial losses the industry experienced, many people dependent on tourism activities for their livelihood are now unemployed. They and their families have become extremely vulnerable, as they are jobless. The government must intervene and take adequate measures to save them so that the tourism sector can recover swiftly.

While the sector is recovering, the government must bring further improvements to the industry. The Punjab government’s launching of ‘Punjab Tourism’ app is a great initiative. Facilitating travellers through an app will undoubtedly boost local as well as international tourism in the province. Other provincial governments must follow suit.

Being one of his priority economic sectors, Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan needs to evaluate the present situation of the tourism industry. World Tourism Day observed on Sunday highlighted the grievances of the sector, the urgent need for it to regain momentum and the possible improvements in the industry. Without solving these outstanding issues, transforming Pakistan into “heaven” for tourists will remain an unrealised dream.

Undoubtedly, Pakistan’s landscape is exceptionally diverse. From lofty highlands to rich alluvial savannahs of Punjab, from vast deserts to the almost untouched shores, Pakistan’s landscapes are just as good, if not better, as compared to tourist countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. The federal and provincial governments can capitalise on our natural diversity to make tourism a chief source of revenue.