ISLAMABAD: The government announced on Friday that it is easing travel restrictions in the hope of reviving tourism by offering visas
on arrival to visitors from 50 countries and electronic visas to
The reforms, approved by the cabinet, would open up a new
era for the tourism industry, which was devastated by terrorist
violence after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks in the United States,
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said.
“We have mountain tourism, we have beach tourism,” he told reporters in Islamabad, referring to Himalayan peaks and Arabian Sea beaches seldom visited by foreigners.
“Pakistan is a heaven for tourists.” the minister did not identify the countries that would benefit from the new rules but in December, he told Reuters that citizens of most European countries would be granted a visa on arrival.
Tourists would also be allowed to visit the politically sensitive Himalayan region of Kashmir and other northern areas, which now require special permission. The new rules would also ease travel restrictions on foreign journalists, Fawad Chaudhry said.
The new visa regime comes after some countries eased travel
advisories on Pakistan in light of improvements in security.
Pakistan was last a prominent tourist destination in the 1970s when the “hippie trail” brought Western travellers through the apricot and walnut orchards of the Swat Valley and Kashmir on their way to India and Nepal.
Since then, deteriorating security and the imposition of a
harsh interpretation of Islamic laws has chipped away at the
number of visitors. But security has since improved dramatically in recent years, with terrorist attacks down sharply in the
country of 208 million people.
The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation said last
year tourist arrivals rose to 1.75 million in 2017, media reported.