Pakistan: A land of tourism, archeological wonders

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Pakistan: A land of tourism, archeological wonders

PESHAWAR, APR 21 (DNA) —Internationally recognized as home to six United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage sites, second highest mountain peak, long coastline and vast cultural and religious heritage, Pakistan offers plenty of tourism activities for local and foreign tourists.

It is also a unique country with enchanting deserts, mesmerizing plains and snow covered peaks, adventurous sea shores and plenty of cultural and archeological sites, ancient Muslim architecture and religious sites of Buddhism and Sikhism.

Archeological wonders of Mohenjo-Daro in Sindh, Harappa in Punjab, Buddhist Ruins in Takht  Bhai and Sahri Bahlol in Mardan and Taxila, ancient Indus and Gandhara civilizations, Thal and Thar deserts and architecture of ancient rulers especially Mughal era can be future hot spots for tourism.

Five highest mountains peaks of above 8,000 meters, including the second highest peak – the K-2 (8611m), 108 highest peaks of above 7000 meters, Deosai plain, cultural diversity of Sindh, Punjab, KPK, Balochistan and Azad kashmir, historical monuments and much more across Pakistan are other hallmarks of our tourism treasure.

Although local tourism flourished visibly in recent years yet unfortunately these bounties remained untapped to the maximum due to multiple reasons like insufficient projection, facilities for tourism and law and order situation due to turmoil in the region.

Since Pakistan has a meager share in global revenue earning from tourism, the experts believe that if the government fully employs the latest digital techniques and social media to highlight these hidden destinations, it can earn billions of dollars annually.  

“Today is an era of digital tourism. Technological advancements has fast started transforming the travel and hospitality industry even in developing countries,” said Abu Zafar, President Alpine Tourism Club of Pakistan. “We have the most beautiful skiing spots, picturesque valleys, rivers and brooks, hiking tracks, polo grounds, ice hockey fields, deserts for car rallies, sea surfing and mighty peaks for scaling.”

But, he said, most of our areas remained insufficiently highlighted across the globe. “Therefore, we need to fully employ the power of social and digital media as well as ensuring amicable environment for tourists.”

Despite its diverse potential, Pakistan’s share in global tourism economy is too low. Therefore, at a time when international media predicts full recovery of tourism industry during 2024, Pakistan needs to tighten belts for securing its due share from trillions of dollars tourism economy.

UNWTO has recorded an estimated 1286 million international tourists (overnight visitors) around the world in 2023, an increase of 34% over 2022 as international tourism recovered 88% of pre-pandemic levels.

The Middle East led the recovery being the only region to overcome pre-pandemic levels with arrivals 22% above 2019, Europe reached 94%, Africa recovered 96% and the Americas 90% and Asia and Pacific recovered 65% with the start of 2023.

Following a strong rebound in 2023, the sector’s outlook reflected in the latest UNWTO Tourism Confidence Index survey, reveals 67% of tourism professionals indicating better or much better prospects for 2024 compared to 2023.

“Our share is too meager as compared to international tourism earning. We secure just a billion or so dollars out of this trillions dollar economy,” remarked Ex-Chairman Economics Department, Peshawar University, Professor Dr Muhammad Naeem. “This is pathetic and urge us to transform our efforts keeping in view the modern trends, exploiting all latest tools for projecting our potential.”

“I expect from the new government to appoint digital professionals and experts to promote tourism to harness our due share in tourism economy,” he stated.

Besides nature’s bounties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, there are ancient and religious sites in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab to attract millions of foreign tourists.

“Scientific advancements and modern technological inventions have virtually turned the world into a global village. Therefore, we should vigorously project our amazing sites and archeological wonders,” remarked Manzoorul Haq, former ambassador.

“As developed nations have replaced conventional publicity methods with digital tourism, so we also need to exploit global positioning system (GPS) and artificial intelligence for quick dissemination of information and projection of our sites,” he stated and proposed to patronage v-loggers, bloggers and social media groups for the purpose.

Although Pakistan’s foreign tourism has witnessed 115% increase during 2023 as mentioned by the then Caretaker Minister of State for Tourism Wasi Shah, yet it earned just US$ 1.3 billion.

‘World Tourism Barometer’ published by World Tourism Organization of the United Nations, had also mentioned that Pakistan had made a remarkable recovery in tourism to pre-pandemic levels.

Showing 115% increase, is just start of a journey towards an overall revolution in this sector that may reach 500% or even thousands percent provided that it is transformed on modern lines projecting Pakistan’s potential.

It is unfortunate that a country having much more potential than other nations, earn much lower than them that direly needs right person for the right job, political will and modern approach to excel in this arena.

This approach should be multi-dimensional, promoting natural, religious, cultural and adventure tourism on war footing to bring in precious tourism associated foreign exchange to support our economy and move forward for economic sustainability.  — DNA