PAKISTAN is a blessed country with a variety of seasons. For sure its geographical location is an added advantage because of the fact that in the same country there are mountains, plateaus, deserts and diverse landscapes. Our country’s each province has its own identity and beauty and one of the nations in the world which is blessed simultaneously with sea, deserts, mountains, glaciers and lush grasslands. Generally speaking, people in Pakistan prefer going to northern areas to enjoy the serenity and favourable desired weather as those areas have better roads to travel and rest areas are often available within a few kilometres.
People prefer going outside the country to enjoy the splendour of sea and beaches but what they ignore is that their own country has more than 1000 kilometres long coastline along Arabian Sea which has some exceptional places to travel. In Sindh, Karachi has tourist places like Sandspit, Hawks Bay, French beach and a recently discovered island too but places in Karachi require immediate attention to get rid of the pollution factor. Starting from the East, Creeks area has one of the biggest mangrove jungles which help protect shorelines from damaging storm and hurricane winds, waves and floods. Mangroves also help prevent erosion by stabilizing sediments with their tangled root systems. They maintain water quality and clarity, filter pollutants and trap sediments originating from land. Moving to the West while travelling on coastal highway one finds some amazing places like Gaddani which is Pakistan’s largest ship breaking yard. Then we find Sonmiani and Kund Malir with beautiful sparkling waters. Ormara is another beautiful place on which a lot of development is made by Pakistan Navy and the Cadet College located there is providing knowledge par excellence to the students especially from Balochistan. Apart from this, development at Ormara has helped people in getting better health facilities and if tourist destinations are developed, locals in this area can benefit a lot from this travel sector by having job opportunities. Balochistan’s coastal line has areas like Pasni, Khor Kalmat, Astola Island, Gwadar, Ganz, Daran and Jiwani where one can find crystal clear water, virgin beaches, excellent quality of sea-food and untapped spots having great potential for maritime sector and coastal tourism.
Tourism is considered as the most influential aspect in any country’s financial plan which can give an immense boost to the economy. It is considered as the second largest industry in the world with whom several big and small industries are connected. According to World Travel and Tourism Council’s Global Data, in 2019 the global economy grew by 2.5%, whereas the travel and tourism sector grew significantly more at 3.5% and one in four net new jobs were created by the travel and tourism industry over the last five years. In Pakistan, the contribution of tourism to GDP is 5.9% and in the year 2019, tourism witnessed 4.7% rise in it. However, in the year 2020, this industry has suffered temporary setback because of Covid-19. According to UN statistics, international tourist arrivals plunged 93% in June when compared to 2019, with the latest data from the World Tourism Organization showing the severe impact COVID-19 has had on the sector. According to the new issue of the World Tourism Barometer from the United Nations specialized agency, international tourist arrivals dropped by 65% during the first half of the year 2020. This represents an unprecedented decrease, as countries around the world closed their borders and introduced travel restrictions in response to the pandemic. Hopefully, once the impact of the virus is down, economic activities will be generated again.
An estimated coastal tourism worldwide is more than 183 billion dollars whereas the statistics show the estimated potential of coastal tourism in Pakistan amounts around $4-5 billion. However, Pakistan hardly generates around $50,000 from this industry. According to one of surveys by Maritime Study Forum – an Islamabad-based think tank, around 70% of the participants showed interest in coastal tourism but most of them either have never experienced travelling along coastline nor have seen sea or beach other than Karachi. Tourism and recreation in the coastal areas of Pakistan is largely limited to beaches along the Karachi coast and a few beaches along the Balochistan coast such as Gaddani and Kund Malir. However, tremendous potential for recreation and nature-based tourism exists in the Indus Delta and along the Balochistan coast at Churna and Astola islands, Jiwani and Hingol areas like Buzy pass, Hindu Temple at Hanglaj and Mud Volcano Chandar Gup. Hingol National Park is considered as the largest migratory birds’ park and sanctuary for many endangered species of wildlife. Some beaches at Astola and Daran along Makran coast are nesting sites of green and olive coloured sea turtles which lay their eggs on these beaches during July-December. Gwadar Bay is another important area for marine fisheries and other marine animals including whales, dolphins, sea turtles, migratory birds and mangroves.
To develop Pakistan’s coastal line, one can take the model of the UAE, Cyprus, Sri Lanka or any other coastal country which has focused more on the development of tourist resorts, fishing activities, sea-cruise rides, scuba-diving activities and highlighting culture of respective coastal communities. Likewise, Pakistan needs to invest in the development of local coastal communities in order to promote tourism in the region. The local culture of coastal communities can act as a great incentive to attract tourists towards this part of the country. It will also help protect marine environment across the coast. A concrete tourism infrastructure is needed which addresses challenges attached to coastal tourism in Pakistan like security, harvesting of mangroves, coastal pollution, solid waste and harbour pollution management, fresh water scarcity, sea intrusion and preservation of marine life and unique species while boating and fishing, considering the importance of coral reefs having precious flora and fauna and sustainable development which protects coastal ecosystem and environment.
With the initiation of CPEC and Gwadar as its hub, a lot of tourism opportunities also unfold for adjoining areas once developed. CPEC entails to socio-economic development in Pakistan and considering the potential which lies in Blue Economy, Pakistan may start from projects related to consumption of tidal and wind energy in power sector, desalination of water, resorts at beaches, ship building, fisheries and other developmental projects as CPEC provides openings of road networks from its port cities and Pakistan can benefit a lot by upgrading its coastal areas. A robust strategy is needed to avert the sea-blindness aspect in Pakistan. Formation of coastal authority in Pakistan can lead from the front by providing a platform for research and addressing challenges vis-à-vis Pakistan’s coastal tourism.