Tourism growth to tackle poverty, unemployment: PM

Highlights efforts to make Pakistan accessible for tourists from everywhere

Our Correspondent April 03, 2019
Imran Khan addresses addresses Pakistan Tourism Summit in Islamabad on Wednesday. SCREEN GRAB

ISLAMABAD: [fbvideo link=""][/fbvideo]

Underscoring Pakistan's credentials as a premier tourist destination, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the industry has the potential to provide employment and reduce poverty levels.

Speaking at a tourism summit in the federal capital on Wednesday, the prime minister (PM) said that the country's various virgin and unexplored beautiful areas, unmatched diversity of mountains, landscapes, deserts, beaches, and religious sites coupled with a new visa regime make Pakistan an attractive tourism destination which is now open for all without any restrictions.

"It was very difficult for foreign tourists to visit some areas including in the north due to restrictions. Tourists had to get a no objection certificate (NOC). We have eased and reversed the situation," he said.

Highlighting the natural beauty of Pakistan including the virgin beaches of Balochistan, he regretted that the country's elite were used to visiting Europe and England in summer.

While referring to his passion of the world tour, especially visiting countries such as Switzerland, Austria and Africa, he said that they don't compete the riches that Pakistan has. "The diversity and beauty with a combination of deserts, beaches and mountains bestowed by the Almighty upon Pakistan is unmatchable in the world."

Reminiscing about his first visit to Gilgit-Baltistan while a college student, he said he was very much impressed by the beauty of northern areas including the Karakoram Range. "With Suleman, Himaliyan and Karakoram ranges, we have diversity in mountains," he remarked.

He also underscored the importance of social media in the promotion of tourism, referring to a visit to Upper Dir. "The social media team of PTI uploaded the video clip on social media, and that clip attracted thousands of domestic tourists to that otherwise isolated place."

He said that during a visit to the northern parts three years back, he found all the hotels booked by tourists as opposed to before when tourists opted to stay away due to concerns over terrorism. "I found British, European and American Pakistanis who had come there for tourism. Then I realised that we have to explore this potential of tourism," he added.

The prime minister said the people of Pakistan were very fond of tourism, which he said was also evident from the traffic jams on weekends from Murree Road to Nathiagali. "We have some 100 such Nathiagalis in Pakistan," he remarked.

The prime minister said the huge potential of tourism in Pakistan was also attractive for investment with high rate of returns. He said besides profits in hotel business, the enhanced tourism in Nathiagali during the last few years, especially during the PTI government's tenure in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), also resulted in an increase in real estate prices in the area.

While acknowledging that it was the private sector that had the pivotal role in promoting tourism, he said that the government on its part would ensure the provision of all facilitation to the tourists and entrepreneurs.

He also highlighted the importance and potential of religious tourism in Pakistan, which besides having lost of shrines of Sufis and Saints also had sacred and historic sites of Budhism, Hinduism and Sikhism.

The prime minister said since Malaysia and Turkey were earning $22 billion and $40 billion, respectively, per annum through tourism, Pakistan by exploring its true potential of tourism could address its issues of less foreign exchange inflows, poverty and unemployment.

He said according to the statistics division, the ratio of unemployment and poverty in K-P dropped during the last five years of PTI rule, which he added was due to the promotion of tourism.

Positive media coverage

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Wednesday asked media to promote a positive image of Pakistan to boost the tourism sector.

Addressing a tourism summit titled "Role of Media in Rebuilding Pakistan Shaping the Right Narrative", he said that the media should represent a positive image of the country to increase the influx of tourists.

Fawad Chaudhry said the country had faced many challenges in the decades of 1970s and 1980s due to its negative perception at the global level. However, the minister said the image and prestige of Pakistan has jumped up during the tenure of the current government.

He lauded the PTI government for taking steps to promote tourism in the country. He said the country has great potential for religious and mountain tourism. "What we need is its proper and strong projection," he stressed.

The minister said that the change in visa policy regime by the interior ministry was an excellent step which would go a long way in promotion of tourism in the country. APP


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