There was a time when tourism in Pakistan contributed significantly to its economy. The northern areas, in particular, were a major tourist attraction but the past decade has seen a decline in tourists to Swat, Gilgit and Kashmir to almost zero. The government has taken a few steps recently to revive the dead industry but it has to come a long way before tourism can be a viable economic contributor. Given the status of tourism up north, it is no surprise that little attention is paid to developing tourism in Sindh. This reality is apparent in the fact that there are only two tourist guides hired for the entire province. To this day, the tourism department pays Rs100 to its officials as travel allowance.The last time the rates were amended was during the time of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and have been the same since.
This is not to say that there are not enough tourist spots in Sindh. With its rich heritage of the Indus Valley civilisation, Sindh offers attractions to everyone’s taste. There is a need for commitment on the part of the Sindh government to make sure these sites are not neglected. First of all, the government must complete all projects that are pending. This includes the decades-old Gorakh Hill Station development project, which is pending merely because the five-metre stretch of road needs to be built. If the roads leading up to the hill station and the ruins in upper Sindh are improved, it will ease access for a lot of people. Similarly, if proper hotels are built around the lakes, more people will be attracted to these sites. The government should also ensure that all the hotels and tourist organisations, which are operating currently, are registered with the proper authorities so that their operations can be monitored. If they are following standardised rules and guidelines, the government can surely boost tourism in this land of the Sufis.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2013.