The number of foreign visitors to Pakistan fell by 50 per cent in the first six months of this year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) says that while 198,201 tourists visited the country from January to June of this year, the number is expected to rise by only 400,000 until the end of the season this year.
As compared with 2013, when Pakistan was a destination for 565,212 tourists, officials say natural disasters such as floods as well as internal conflict have greatly affected the tourism industry.
Additionally, officials at PTDC said there has been a dip in the number of tourists visiting Pakistan to undertake religious pilgrimages, such as Sikh pilgrims from India, since Operation Zarb-e-Azb commenced this year. The operation has also affected the number of travellers to Peshawar, Landi Kotal and the Khyber Pass, destinations for those travelling in the autumn months.
STATE BANK OF PAKISTAN
The PTDC estimates that 50 million domestic tourists will travel within the country on short trips (including day and weekend visits) this year. Domestic tourism has suffered a blow in August and September due to the ongoing political crisis in the capital as well as the flooding this month in Sindh and Punjab. While domestic tourists usually travel from May to August, the occurrence of Ramazan this year in July, followed by political protests in August affected travel plans. Travel to Murree, Swat, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, Naran, Kaghan and Skardu were also affected for these reasons. Officials said fear of road blockades and unavailability of petrol or CNG has impacted domestic travellers’ plans.
The main destinations for domestic tourists are the Khyber Pass, Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, Swat, Rawalpindi, Mohen jo Daro, Harappa, and Taxila, as well as hill stations around the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2014.