It is a well-established fact that tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and has immense potential to earn the much-needed foreign exchange. It is for this reason that countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives, Malayasia Turkey and Indonesia, to name a few, have invested in its tourism potential and earning good foreign exchange.
Pakistan too is rich in tourism with its beautiful beaches, snowcapped pristine peaks, verdant valleys scenic lakes and religious and archaeological sites. In this context, the recent government initiative to grant visas on arrival for 50 countries and online e-visa processing for another 175 countries are step in the right direction for boosting tourism in the country. However, a mere liberal visa policy cannot alone solve the myriad problems facing the tourism sector. The country has been ravaged by militancy and violence over the years and the perception that Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries of the world must be removed once and for all. Our missions abroad can play an effective role by creating awareness that the country is safe both for investors and tourists.
Infrastructure for the tourism industry must be improved on a massive scale. Hotels, motels and rest houses, with full facilities, must be built in the remote scenic areas of the country. Ski resorts must be developed in the Northern Areas to lure tourists. The recent opening of the Kartapur Corridor has been fervently welcomed by the Sikh community all over the world which, in itself, will be a boon for religious tourism. Pakistan is home to sacred sites for Buddhist, Hindus and Sikhs. The country can earn the desperately-needed foreign exchange by developing these sites. Security for tourists must be the topmost priority of the authorities and no stone should be left unturned in ensuring safety of the visitors. A liberal visa policy can only be justified if we get our priorities right.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2019.