How to promote tourism culture in Pakistan?

Tourism can be a multi-billion dollar industry in Pakistan provided there is awareness and policy on the part of the stakeholders to promote the culture of tourism. A country’s image and reputation are judged on the basis of its ability to provide basic amenities to tourists, especially foreigners.

While India and China can derive more than $ 20 billion from tourism and various European countries like Switzerland, France, UK, Italy and Greece can derive several hundred billion dollars from tourism. tourism, why Pakistan, a country of enviable natural beauty? Recently Prime Minister Imran Khan said that while a country like Switzerland can make billions of dollars from tourism, Pakistan can certainly take significant steps to attract tourists. But simply pushing through statements about turning Pakistan into a tourism hub will only make sense if the government takes practical steps to create a culture of tourism that requires a mindset from the locals. , tour operators, hotels and officials attached to the tourism ministry.

When we talk about tourism culture, it means four major requirements.

First, the attitude and behavior of those who are supposed to provide advice and facilities to tourists.

Second, respect for hygiene and cleanliness in restaurants, restaurants, toilets and hotels at tourist sites. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, there is a lack of hygiene and a clean environment for tourists, which creates a very bad impression for local and foreign tourists.

Third, the availability of affordable accommodation and food is essential to create a culture of tourism in Pakistan. During the summer and winter tourist seasons, there is no control by the authorities concerned to prevent hoteliers who take advantage of the situation and charge excessive sums to tourists.

Finally, the lack of tourism culture in Pakistan has a lot to do with the corruption and inefficiency of tourism departments in various provinces of the country which are either irresponsible in their functions or lack the proper training to provide maximum facilities. to tourists at affordable prices. It is a pity that unlike India, China, United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka, where there is a culture of tourism, one can observe the absence of a good work ethic and the pursuit of a professional to attract foreign tourists. It is true that due to the pandemic that has reigned since the start of 2020, the tourism industry around the world has suffered, but such a crisis should have been used as an opportunity by formulating short and long term policies for train those linked to tourism. industry. In 2020 and early 2021, tourist spots in Pakistan were closed and only reopened in the summer of 2021. The rush to tourist destinations during the summer of 2021 is unprecedented which has led to the shortage of accommodation and the overcharging of hotel accommodation.

Pakistan is blessed with beautiful tourists as well as historical and religious sites which foreign tourists visit in large numbers. Northern Pakistan is known for its peaks, glaciers, lakes and forests where not only local tourism can thrive, but millions of foreign tourists can also be drawn. Likewise, the historic sites of Texila and Mohenjo Daro can attract foreign tourists. The deserts of Tharparkar in Sindh and Cholistan in Punjab, as well as the coast of Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan, also have the potential to attract local and foreign tourists in large numbers.

If the government and other stakeholders wish to promote the tourism industry and local tourism, they must ensure that adequate facilities are provided. Political decisions aimed at promoting the culture of tourism must take into account three major requirements.

First, major tourist destinations like Swat, Naran, Gilgit, Hunza and Skardu should be monitored by the respective tourism departments and ministries so that tourists visiting these places enjoy the best facilities at affordable prices. Acts of cheating and overcharging for accommodation and meals must be eradicated. It seems that the “tourist mafias”, in collaboration with the authorities, are denying tourists the possibility of enjoying their vacation.

Second, it is a shame that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has failed in any way to improve tourism infrastructure, including roads. For example, Naran is a major tourist spot and tourists who visit this place make sure to visit the legendary Saiful Muluk lake as well. But, it is shocking that there is no road from Naran to this lake and that tourists are left at the mercy of the “mafia jeep” which thwarts efforts to build a good quality road. It is unfortunate that the PTI which has been in power in the KP since 2013 has failed to fight against the “jeep mafia” and to build a road to Saiful Muluk Lake which can save thousands of tourists from the torture of a inhuman journey through rocks and stones. If the Naran “mafia jeep” subverts the construction of the road from Naran to this lake, where is the order of the KP government? The provincial government needs to provide hygienic conditions for tourists as well as affordable hotels, but it has been observed that unlike high claims from the PTI government, the reality on the ground is different. There is a link between the hotel mafia and the government which results in the exploitation of tourists. The KP government must implement its political decision to promote local and foreign tourism instead of being involved in bribery with the “jeeps and hotels mafia”. There are other destinations in Swat and Kaghan-Naran where one can observe a pathetic state of the roads and a poor tourist infrastructure.

Third, if the government projects that Pakistan will earn R $ 1 trillion from tourism by 2025, then intense efforts should be made at the federal and provincial levels to create the culture of tourism by taking the measures that have been underlined above. When there was civil war in Sri Lanka from 1983 to 2009 and foreign tourism collapsed, the government encouraged local tourism which tried to close the income gap from foreign tourism. Pakistan must promote local tourism and take practical measures to ensure safety, security, better hygiene, infrastructure and accommodation facilities so that local and foreign tourists can be attracted.

Posted in The Express Tribune, July 18e, 2021.

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