Take handful of colorful cultures. Then add

 

Take a cluster
of picturesque mountains that rises in the North and a handful of colorful cultures.
Then add a variety of traditional taste of different provincial cuisines and
mix it with folk entertainment, native music. Add an assortment of historic
buildings, spiritual or ancient sites and Sunday markets; then toss it with
festive activities like trekking, biking, paragliding, White-water Rafting and Jeep
safaris. And finally, top it up with local hospitality. You have a geological
cake to savor Pakistan in all the colors of a treasured destination.

 

On the borders of China, Afghanistan, Iran, India; Pakistan
has been a natural gateway to Asia since thousands of years.

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A part of the Northern area (Gilgit), which had remained not
only the main staging post along the Silk Road into China and

Central Asia; but the ardent terrain served a sacred path for
Chinese pilgrims who trot the highlands seeking divine pleasure at

Holy Buddhist sites that dot along and nearby the present
Karakoram Highway. Takhat-e-Bahi and Taxila as the main centers

of Buddhism, it was handed down from here, reaching afar to
India and Far-east.

Today, these mountainous areas sprinkled with waterfalls,
lakes looking over the ultimate grandeur of the world’s largest mountain
systems:

The Himalaya, the Kara-koram and the Hindukush, which boasts
some of the world’s highest peaks soaring over 8,000 meters,

with the K2 as the 2nd highest mountain towering
8,611 meters, surrounded by literally hundreds of peaks rising over 7000 and
6000 meters,

with an air of mystery of the origin of mountain tribe.

 

Down South and in the central plains, more than 7000 years
old Ancient Civilization thrived along the Indus River at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa.

At a time span of 3c BC to 10c AD, the rich soil attracted
un-invited invaders like Alexander of Macedonia, the Huns (from Central Asia)
and

Mahmud of Ghazni who mercilessly carry out mass killings and
destruction of sites, respectively. The glory of the Gandhara kingdom burnt to
the

ground, now seen at the sites in a state of ruins.

Gandhara Civilization developed finery in art, and introduced
learning institutes and hospitals for health care.

It was here that the first environmental-friendly concept of
planting the trees along the road side was introduced by

King Asoka of the Chandra Gupta Dynasty.

A young visionary, Mohammad bin Qasim the great invader, introduced
Islam and Multan and Uchchh Sharif became centers of learning and Sufism.

The semi-desert area shouldering Cholistan and Tharparkar,
some with pockets of large sand dunes are renowned of its colorful creation of
fabric and

design works. These fascinating places are dotted with
exquisitely designed Mausoleums of Sufi saints and the Nawabs (self-claimed
rulers),

many were built, inspired with architecture style of  Iran and Central Asia, using blue tile and
octagonal structures.

 

The Moghul dynasty and the British canon graced the central and
south areas of the land with some of the most imposing buildings,

including the magnificent Badshahi Masjid, the awesome Lahore
Fort, the romancing arcades of the Shalimar Gardens of Love,

the Grand masjid of Thatta, and the Victorian and medieval
British monuments like the Lahore high Court, the Lahore Museum, Kim’s Gun

and many splendid buildings in the commercial hub on the
coastal belt of the land: Karachi (Sind), which has a stretch of 1,046
kilometers

coastline to the west, past Gwadar (soon to become a world-class
Port city of the country), towards Quetta (Balochistan); the mineral –rich land
with

huge reserves of natural gas.      

 

With all the aforesaid natural and man-made treasures,
Pakistan is not visited by globe trotters, leisure and adventure travelers.

Tourism had become a primary victim since 9/11 and thereafter,
attack on Afghanistan on the whim of “war on terror” and also impacted by

internal political conflict, as well as various structural,
infrastructure issues. The nation bestowed with mind-blowing landscape,
cultural variation and

history dating back to ancient civilization, with all the
right travel products for a traveler, Pakistan’s tourism, by itself, has been
unable to build

peace and there seems to be no sign of revival of tourism due
to degenerating local and global agenda.

 

I have formulated the following Wish List if this nation, with a very few caring hands in the
Industry, want to develop a strategies to see tourism recovery,

which require immediate action and implementation.

First a few setbacks, on a broad spectrum, as to what are the
real causes hampering the revival of tourism in Pakistan:

1)     There
is no Federal Ministry of Tourism

2)     There
is no single National Tourism Board (Tourism authorities in different provinces
have failed to put an action plan for implementation)

3)     Lack
of sense of urgency

4)     Inability
to take up study of role models of destinations that had confronted a clampdown
in tourism and how it revived

5)     Inability
to see the silver linings. The short-haul Asian markets, which can be fairly
easy to tap with price-driven tactical campaigns and participation

at regional travel
events like PATA Travel Mart (Asia-Pacific countries), Arabian Travel Market
(Dubai), ITB-Asia (Singapore).

6)     To
accept the irony of the fact that western countries do not accept Pakistan as a
travel destination. Travel advisory and Embassies impose restriction

On travel to Pakistan
and consumer travel cannot secure personal and health insurance. And therefore,
attending huge travel events like

WTM London, ITB Berlin
will not reap effective marketing to Pakistan tourism revival.

7)     No incentive to
Low-cost airlines to operate in more Asian destination flying passengers to Pakistan
from foreign destinations (such as UAE,

Thailand, Malaysia,
Singapore, Japan).

8)     Inability
to work with Travel Media (unawareness to differentiate travel media and main
stream media) and lack of flow of information

via mobile apps.

9)     Lack
of tourism information on the net and at Pakistan’s Foreign Missions.

10) Unwelcoming
attitude and old methods applied at immigration process that slow down Visa
process.

11)  Problems of insecurity of lives and
property while travelling in the country and problems of tourist scams and
exploitation.

12)  Problems related to congestion and
deterioration of tourist sites and lack of development of new sites with future
potential.

 

Recipe for Revival of International Tourism

 

Dissolution
of Federal Ministry of Tourism in 2011 was a clear statement that tourism is
not a priority for the government.

Lack
of vision and inappropriate allocation of human capital has created problems
with the management of various tourism related

organizations,
which are scattered, lack integration and direction, causing disconnection. 

There
is an urgent need to establish a national Pakistan Tourism Board (PTB) to act as a mechanism to define policy and manage

tourism in an interconnected manner at the national, regional
and international levels so that tourism management is semi-autonomous

and suitable. Once PTB is
established, it should undertake the integration of all tourism related work in
order to generate maximum benefit,

enhance communication, taking into confidence the Immigration
department (for ease of visa) and security forces (solving the problem of

visible security), thus encouraging visitors’ confidence.

To guarantee success, the PTB be given a status similar to
the Board of Investment to prevent duplication and maintain consistency

in encouraging international
and domestic investment in tourism. While international tourism is the largest
single source of foreign currency earner;

Domestic tourism is a healthy economic activity.

PTB be given the authority to demolish (even if it
requires to make amendment in the constitution) all Regional and Provincial
Tourist Authorities

(like Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab and
so on) and establish cost saving windows
of Tourist Offices in all major tourist attractions

and cities. Tourism and Hospitality University need to
be managed and operated by PTB, seeking support by some of successful
institutions in

Switzerland or Austria. All private institutions
must be under license by PTB and course syllabus approved by a recognized
international institute of

Tourism and Hospitality.

 

Over the years, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation
(PTDC) has been underplaying its vital role as a catalyst – instead it is seen
as a competitor

offering tourist services. The NTO role is to formulate and
put into action an aggressive marketing campaign and formulate policies to foster
growth of tourism.

Once, PTB is formed, it should
focused on:

*
Call upon Famtrips for tour operators. PTB in co-operation with the private
sector should hold famtrips during the off season period.

*
Organize Road shows (showcasing destination Pakistan Tourism products) in the
countries with a short and long term tourist arrival

 in potential markets (that accept Pakistan a
tourist destination) with immediate response from travelers.

*Hold international mega annual events (on precise dates year
on year calendar) such as polo matches (inviting international teams),

concerts staging native music and international stars
invitees (like the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching, which attracts some

20,000 international visitors over
a 3-day concert);

*Hold the annual Pakistan Travel
Mart (PTM) and invite quality international buyers from potential markets and
international media. The seller

to buyer ratio should be 1:1 to
insure the investment of Exhibitor reap positive results. Long time established
tour operators may be

contacted to provide authentic
companies as buyers. The PTM 2017, as feedback suggested, lack the strategy of
making it an impact as an

international event.

*Encourage
tourists with an Insurance Plan from the date of entering the country till
departure, in particular a tourist visiting from a country that impose

a
Travel Advisory on travel restriction to Pakistan.

 

Restrict the Main Stream Media

A positive PR is urgently needed to control main stream media
to improve the image of destination Pakistan. Adopt strict measures

Against bias and fake news or unnecessary propaganda that
deter the image of the nation. This can be executed in the manner such as

black listing the news “maker” or the channel. Alternatively,
incentive via advertising and participation with the particular channel may

win support. It is an irony the government as well as private
sector is unable to purview the power and significance of Travel related media,
including

online publications, Social media, Travel blog, which has an
entirely a different mindset than the main stream (politically motivated) media
reporting.

In the present scenario of disruptive tourism, the private
sector has yet to learn marketing using innovative technology on fingertips.   

 

Stimulate Domestic Tourism

*PTB
should hold seminars and conduct field trips to
tourist attraction;

*A monthly calendar of annual Cultural Events is always a
huge pull for travelers. It is necessary to hold the annual events regularly

under similar date and venue year on year, so the tour
operators include in their itineraries;

*Incentive offers for government/ civil employees, private
companies, students, millennials and baby boomers – in taking up short and

long holiday breaks, such as:

–         
Offer Photo Competition Prizes;

–         
Allow tax deduction from personal income
on domestic travel holiday expenses;

–         
Tax rebate or 3-5 years tax holiday for new companies
registered under tourism and hospitality;

*Allow Low Interest Bank Loans to
individuals to invest in the Industry and for private sector to make extension,
build better infrastructure

and upgrade of service quality;

*Hold annual Pakistan Travel Market during low
season in provincial capitals on rotation basis allowing the industry sectors
to showcase

Its products to consumer travel on one platform; 

*Allow free entry ticket (over a certain
period of time) to museums, tourist attractions (like the World’s largest
Khewra Salt Mine) and archeological sites.

*Heavy
Fines
to be strictly subjected to every
individual traveling in a tourist area throwing garbage.

*Heavy Fines to be imposed to builders of
hotels who build hotels and restaurant that assault the beauty of natural
surroundings. A Notice be issued to

Refurbish or demolishing orders be issued by PTB.

 

Sustainable Tourism of Pakistan

Recently
established, the Sustainable Tourism
Foundation Pakistan (STFP) – a non-profit and non-political organization was
established by a group of

eminent
professionals from the tourism industry as well as environmentalists and have
played a commendable role to promote Sustainable Tourism in

Pakistan.
The Foundation is working closely with public and private sector stakeholders
at national, regional and international level to facilitate and

promotion
the exchange of knowledge, experiences and ideas on best practices of
sustainable tourism. The projects have been mainly aimed at

village
based tourism development, environmental care and cleaning task of scenic
places after the sites visited by mass domestic tourism activities.

 

According
to the UNWTO – Secretary General Taleb Rifai said:
“Every year, 1.2 billion people travel abroad. These, and the billions more who
travel

domestically, create a sector which contributes 10% of global
GDP to the world’s economies and 1 in 11 jobs. Tourism has become a passport to

prosperity, a driver of peace, and a transformative force for
improving millions of lives.”

The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2017 released by
World Economic Forum (WEF) rank Spain, France and Germany as the top three

destinations in travel and tourism, and Pakistan stands at
124 out of 136 countries. Will this ill-fated land find a miracle man putting
back Pakistan Tourism

a deserving ranking order that can be achieved through
dynamic management and conscientious marketing campaign?

It is the people who can make a difference, because every
individual person in a population of 200 million is directly or indirectly
connected with tourism.

A lot of work is needed to be done to revive Pakistan
Tourism. The stake holders in the Industry need to pay attention to take action
towards implementation

of a strategy listed aforesaid. A mere statement repeating in
words on the tourism potential and brag about the wonderful variety of tourism
product on

national platform will not revive tourism.

Its time stake holders play their role with a sense of
responsibility and focus on tactical marketing – the only way to revive
international tourism. 

 

————– End.