Tremendous potential for Pakistan tourism

Peshawar’s stunning old town

For a country that declared 2007 it’s year of tourism, it hasn’t exactly presented a welcoming image to the world, with several bombings and violent street clashes.

Such events could well be out of the government’s control, but Pakistan’s timing in launching such a campaign has been criticised. The campaign’s lack of touch terribly lacked feasibility in allocating budgets and hasty deals with unprofessional bodies, with inadequate awareness in tourism imaging and portrayal of a destination, seem to have cost Pakistan’s Ministry of Tourism dearly.
While the country has a lot to offer in terms of breathtaking scenic spots, diverse culture, history and architectural splendour, travellers are constantly bombarded by the country’s negative image.
However, Pakistani officials beg to differ. At the Beijing International Tourism Exhibition recently, Shahid Rafi, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, talked up the country’s scenic beauty, mountains, culture, archaeolog-ical sites, historical places, deserts, handicrafts and more. He said that there was no dearth of destinations of tourist interest in Pakistan, and that his ministry is working on promoting these through various means.
Rafi said that to attract the maximum number of foreign tourists, the ministry is working on various proposals to scale down the cost and also improve infrastructure, while adding hotels. If the country succeeds in addressing these issues, it expects to be successful in attracting large tourist numbers.
To that end, the government has been seeking international investment for the tourism industry. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was quoted by the Associ-ated Press of Pakistan as saying there are tremendous oppor-tunities for foreign investment in tourism, particularly in developing tourist facilities.
Certainly, the opportunities abound.
The WTTC estimates that travel and tourism in Pakistan this year will generate $11 billion in economic activity, while accounting for six per cent of GDP. The industry is expected to grow 6.7 per cent this year and 5.2 per cent per annum, in real terms, between 2008 and 2017 – higher than the world projections of 4 per cent.
There a slew of hotels for high-end tourists, such as the Pearl Continental, Marriott, Serena and Holiday Inn, but tourists on a budget are likely to have a tough time finding two- and three-star hotels, while the country’s guesthouses are notoriously dilapidated. Several of the motels run by the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation have been put on the government’s privatisation list, too.
With new airline connections – Airblue and Lufthansa to Europe as well as innumerable new routes to the Middle East – there’s enough connectivity.
If only they can get their law and order situation right.

By Clark Kelly