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Tourism potential an answer to Pakistan’s economic woes

Tourism is one such industry in which manpower at a large scale can be utilised.

Undoubtedly, tourism potential of Pakistan offers great economic opportunities. However, it has largely remained unexplored. Starting from the Eight Thousanders in the north to the Mughal heritage in Punjab and from the enchanting valleys of Kashmir to the remains of Buddha, Harappa and MohenjoDaro in other parts, Pakistan offers an unending variety to the explorers and tourists. It is a sad reality that tourism industry could never establish itself as a major contributor to the GDP. As in Malaysia, a campaign was launched in 1999, namely ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’ attracted millions of tourists successfully and in India, tourism industry is contributing around US $ 250 billion per annum to the national exchequer. Pakistan attracts only around 0.8 million tourists per annum as per the estimates of 2010. This is primarily because of the fact that most of the treasures of Pakistan are either neglected or unexplored.

Tourism potential of Pakistan:Natural tourism

Pakistan hosts five out of the 14 Eight Thousanders, namely; K2 (2nd highest peak), Nanga Parbat (9th), Gasherbrum I (11th), Broad Peak (12th) and Gasherbrum II (13th) that are 8611m, 8126m, 8080m, 8051m and 8034m high, respectively. Apart from them, there are Masherbrum (7821m) and Rakaposhi (7788m) as well among high peaks in Pakistan. Deosai Plains near Skardu spread over an area of some 3,000km. After Tibet, Deosai is the second highest plateau in the world at an average height of 4,114 metres above mean sea level and are rich in unique type of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. In Balochistan, there is Hingol National Park on Makran coastal highway. There are Kund Malir and Ormara beaches as well along with Gwadar in Balochistan. Ziarat is a very scenic and soothing place for tourists due to its gorges, topography, residency of Jinnah and many more. Moreover, north of Pakistan is blessed with most spectacular lakes, few of which are; Banjosa Lake in Rawlakot, Ansoo Lake in Naran, Hanna Lake in Quetta, Mahodand Lake in Kalam and Kachoora Lake in Skardu. Rivers like Kabul, Chitral, Swat, Neelum and Indus offer ample source of attraction for tourists. Wildlife parks are also a huge source of attraction for those who hunt as a hobby. Cholistan and Thar deserts have their own beauty and attraction and lastly beaches of Karachi and Gwadar are also sources of entertainment and fun for visitors and tourists.

Archeological tourism
Pakistan has remained host to the ancient cultures and holds real treasure of those cultures. Archeological sites like Shalimar Gardens, Jahangir Tomb, Noor Jahan Tomb, Badshahi Masjid, Lahore Fort, Sunehri Masjid, Masjid Wazir Khan in Lahore, Attock Fort in Attock, Fort Monro in D. G. Khan, Fort Bala Hisar in Peshawar, Red Fort in Muzaffarabad, AJK, Fort Abbas in Bahawalnagar, remains of Buddha in Takht Bai, Mardan, and Harappa and Mehenjo Daro remains are the most precious sites existing in Pakistan and a source of attraction for national and international tourists alike.
Taj Mahal in India attracts 2 million people per annum, beach tourism in Malaysia attracts 24 million people per annum, and Mogao Caves in China earn billions. Why a country like Pakistan with such a mosaic tourism attractions cannot generate benefits.
Disaster tourism
Disaster tourism is a new concept. The purpose is to attract people to witness the devastating impacts of a disaster that was unique due to its magnanimity and quantum of damage or may be of national or international importance. The concept is naive in Pakistan. First instance of disaster tourism was found after hurricane Katrina in August 2005 in USA. Though this concept received wide opposition on ethical grounds, but still it is a source of revenue generation. In Pakistan, in recent times two disasters of high magnitude occurred that could have been used as a source of disaster tourism. Earthquake in 2005 massacred huge areas. Still after seven years the remains of that disaster are visible. Similarly, 2010 floods offered same opportunity, but lost. Moreover, areas hit by war on terror, drone attacks or operations against militants can be used for the same purpose. Compound of late Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad could offer the same chance. Another mentionable place is Lake Attabad in Hunza that was the outcome of a disaster but has a very spectacular landscape.

Religious tourism
Religion attracts millions across the world. Pakistan being an Islamic nation hosts many religious gatherings and events that are of international scale like the one that takes place in Raiwind. But apart from that there are huge number of attractions for Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists specially. Examples are Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Nankana Sahib, Sadh Belo Temple in Sukkur and Buddhist remains in all places where remains of Indus Civilisation are found.
Cultural and Recreational tourism
Shindoor polo festival in July is one such event from where people gather from different parts of the world to witness the amazing show of polo at the height of around 3700 metres is organised and celebrated in Pakistan.  Basant has remained a true craze for the people until it was banned due to unwanted activities. Desert safari is conducted in Cholistan. Other activities that are religious in spirit but have become the part of culture are Mela Cheragah of Hazrat Shah Hussain (RA), urs of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakash (RA), Hazrat Baba Bulle Shah (RA) urs, Hazrat Shah Rukn-e-Alam (RA) urs, Hazrat Shahbaz Qalandar (RA) urs.
National events like 14th August celebrations, 6th September celebrations, and daily flag ceremonies at Wagha border, Lahore and Ganda Singh border, Kasur. Apart from all that concerts, musical programmes, cultural shows, flower exhibitions, parks, resorts, shopping malls, gaming zones, cinemas, hotels and restaurants are to attract local public so that they can ease out at weekends.

Analysis

Concern is why the tourism potential of Pakistan has not been utilised to its maximum as yet. Taj Mahal in India attracts 2 million people per annum, beach tourism in Malaysia attracts 24 million people per annum, and Mogao Caves in China earn billions. Why a country like Pakistan with such a mosaic tourism attractions cannot generate benefits. Pakistan owing to its geological and geographic features is one of the unique countries in the world. It is one such piece of land that has glaciers as well as deserts and coasts in it. No where in world exists any country that offers this much variety of landscape.
If tourism is considered seriously as a source of revenue generation and as a contributor to GDP, measures should be taken to build infrastructure, provide trainings and project Pakistan as a real heaven on earth.
Problem lies in the realisation of the fact that tourism can be an industry. Tourism can generate three things: job opportunities, revenue and local and foreign investment. Tourism industry offers job opportunities of various ranks and levels not only to the locals but also to the people from other areas. They can be transporters, drivers, guides, hotel managers or employees, local handicraft sellers, boat operators, translators or interpreters, local musicians, local folk story tellers, photographers or having photo studios and may be local with equipment that is necessary for exploring that region. This demands three things again: security, infrastructure and training at government level.

Revenue generation is certain if tourism is promoted as an industry. One average international tourist stays around three days in Indonesia and spends over US $1100. At an average of 8 million tourists per annum it makes around US $ 8.8 billion per annum. Hypothetically speaking, if Pakistan makes one million international tourists stay and spend around US $100 each that makes US $100 billion. As a matter of fact, Pakistan is currently attracting only 0.8 million tourists that also includes people for diplomatic purposes and other reasons. So, number of tourists is very low. So, there is a dire need to attract tourists. For attracting tourists it is very important to launch a comprehensive media campaign. It was done in 2007 by declaring it the year of tourism, but due to existing law and order situation it was difficult to attract tourists from abroad. Same is the reason that foreign investment did not enter Pakistan.

However, plea of law and order can not be taken true and of similar nature for the whole country alike. Somewhere things get difficult at certain times but whole country should not feel the impact of it and dismantle all the activities. Rather, as economic deprivation and depression is labelled as one of the major reason behind terrorism and extremism, so it can be controlled by providing job opportunities to locals. Tourism is one such industry in which manpower at a large scale can be done by minimum investment and efforts. What is required to be done seriously is to change the thinking of masses about Pakistan, within as well as outside. Today Pakistan stands aloof with all possible crises existing in it and with all possible financial burdens. Reason behind is absence of good governance, corruption, low income generation sources, more burden on existing infrastructure and ultimately poverty, un employment and terrorism flourish.

If tourism is considered seriously as a source of revenue generation and as a contributor to GDP, measures should be taken to build infrastructure, provide trainings and project Pakistan as a real heaven on earth. It is a readily available option to end economic woes of Pakistan in a longer run and in cheaper ways.
By: Sikander Zishan

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