GONE are the days when our beloved country was labelled as terrorist producing country. The year 2019 was tough on diplomatic front with constant challenges and on domestic grounds, political turns were always there but what brought good news before saying good bye to 2019 is that Pakistan ranks top most on Conde’ Nast Travellers’ list 2020 best holiday destinations. For some this news can just be like other stories moving around the globe but certainly it holds due prominence for Pakistan when it is coping up diverse defies. Pakistan is a blessed country to have 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. According to statistics, tourist traffic, world-wide has seen a massive increase of 317 per cent over the past five years, while the number of international tourists visiting Pakistan has tripled between the years 2013 and 2016. According to data by World Travel and Tourism Council, over 1.4 million tourists’ arrival is expected by the end of 2019 but comparing the regional neighbours statistics, its number is little less. Pakistan was ranked at top for 2020 by the United States-based luxury and lifestyle publication Conde’ Nast Traveller. The selection was made after follows of several positive reviews of the tourist attractions in the country by travel bloggers, YouTube bloggers, magazines and adventure clubs. Another travel company Wild Frontiers also named Pakistan as the country to travel to in the year 2020 while in 2018, the British Backpacker Society had also ranked Pakistan the number one travel destination in the world.
The magazine Conde’ Nast praises Pakistan by quoting “This remarkable country is finally getting the focus it deserves. Because this is a place of exquisite landscape, where green spaces are overlooked by towering mountains. In fact, Pakistan has more peaks taller than 22,965 feet than China and Nepal combined, making it an almost magnetic spot for adventure travellers and intrepid hikers”. Magazine also praised Shandur, which is referred as world’s highest polo field and mentions that “visitors can also meet the Kalash people of the Hindu Kush, famed for their cowrie-shell headdresses and brighter-than-bright embroidery. While in Lahore, the sight of 100,000 worshippers crammed into the sandstone 17th-century Badshahi Mosque is also one of the must-see sights with its Mughal-era architectural masterpieces stand resplendent on bustling street corners”. Pakistan is blessed with utmost beauty and serenity but negligence in many sectors and particularly development sector makes its image bad. In Pakistan several organizations are working day and night to promote soft image of country through cultural events, expos, exhibitions, arts and crafts activities, sports festivals and many other such occasions have significant impact in bringing not only investment in Pakistan but gives audience an impact of a peaceful lively nation. Undoubtedly, we are the nation with great spirits and we need to highlight exceptional things about Pakistan. Pakistan excessively needs to focus on promoting tourism as terrorism within the country has ended and tourists can come and go back safely while carrying back positive image about Pakistan. 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, desert, mountains, glaciers and lush grasslands.
Need of the hour is that together we should promote culture of harmony and tourism in the country so that it can excel economically and socially. Particularly, the northern areas carry immense beauty in themselves and many are unexplored even. Though in past, few areas were developed but still there are many unexplored areas in Dir, Swat, Chitral and adjacent areas which are looking towards authorities for development and exploration of resources. We have seen that India promotes its soft image under the notion of Incredible India while focusing more on tourism and attracting investors and wickedly sideways its human rights violations not only in India but in Kashmir too. According to UN statistics over the past six decades, tourism has experienced continued expansion and diversification, and it has become one of the fastest growing and most important economic sectors in the world, benefiting destinations and communities worldwide. International tourist arrivals worldwide have grown from 25 million in 1950 to nearly 1.3 billion today. Similarly, international tourism revenues earned by destinations around the world have grown from 2 billion US dollars in 1950 to 1260 trillion in 2015. The sector represents an estimated 10% of the world’s GDP and one in ten jobs globally. Tourism’s role in job creation is often undervalued. This is despite the fact that tourism generates 10% of world jobs and is included in SDG-8 for its potential to create decent work.
Pakistanis as a nation are destined to achieve evolvement in any sector but revolutionary steps by the government can bring much change along with this comes the responsibility of nation too, to keep the maintenance of developed areas particularly keeping the environment clean in all vicinities so that tourists carry a better image of Pakistan. Media must be asked to help build a better, positive Pakistan and use the power it wields carefully in this regard. This image building exercise cannot be commenced instantaneously as it requires a continued prognosis but positive projection for a long period of time will be fruitful in this regard. We should immediately sort out which new policies are needed to maximize tourism’s potential to create more and better jobs, especially for women and youth and it must reflect and incorporate ongoing advances in technology along with addressing the current mismatch between tourism skills that are taught and those that tourism employers need.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.