Dr Saeed Ahmed Ali
LAHORE, Mar 15 (APP):Pakistan geographically and ethnically is a country having diversity of historical, cultural, spiritual, archaeological heritage sites, providing tourists rich opportunities to visit ancient Indus Valley Civilization, Mughal-British Era monuments and religious places, related to Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism sites.
To explore the new potential and stunning beauty of Pakistan, the incumbent Government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had announced in March 2019 an e-visa policy for the foreign tourists, ensuring attractive initiatives and safety measures in the country.
On the launching occasion of this policy, Prime Minister Imran Khan had ensured the world that Pakistan was opening its doors to introduce the manifestation of a new confidence of the security situation which was quite secure for the tourists.
Following the e-visa policy announcement for the citizens of 175 countries, different parameters show that Pakistan has regained the status of the most favoured tourist destination for 2020.
World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) data report issued recently had revealed that Pakistan’s $20 Billion Tourism Industry was rapidly booming with a trend forecast that the industry would further grow to over $36 billion within a decade.
Due to the bold initiatives of PTI government, an upsurge in tourism sector has been witnessed during the years 2018-2020, as it has removed some barriers in getting No Objection Certificate (NOC) for the tourists allowing them to visit every nook and corner of the country, to enjoy the scenic beauty and historical areas of their choice.
Punjab Economic Report issued recently points out that the Sikh tourism in the province was around $34 million with 85,000 jobs suggesting Buddhist tourism could be generated to around $17 million with around 35,000 jobs.
Punjab Growth Strategy (PGS)-2023 document shows that the Punjab Province can generate around US $2 billion worth of income in tourism sector annually, elucidating the domestic tourism has a potential around $1 billion per year by creating 250,000 jobs.
Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation document observes that improved security situation has boosted annual tourist arrivals in Pakistan by 300 per cent to more than 1.86 million in 2018, while domestic travelers increased 42 per cent to 38 million.
Punjab, being the largest province population-wise, also features a wide range of Nature, Sports tourism in agro, eco and desert tourism sector in Cholistan and Thal Deserts. A document of the Tourism Development Corporation Punjab shows that besides Soan Valley, Salt Range, Urban and Recreational Tourism, the Punjab agricultural landscape provides rich tourist attractions in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Narowal, Multan and Bahawalpur.
Pakistan is an agriculture country and 70 percent people directly or indirectly are attached with this sector, which is backbone of the economy.
In present digital age, the modern world is inclined towards agro-tourism, which includes farm and agricultural related tourism. Agro-tourism is being undertaken by the urban residents for the recreational, excursion, and holidays’ purposes. The rural agriculture attracts tourists to explore rural communities, their language, and ways of farming, traditions and culture.
In the current life of capsules and molecules, the modern technology and rapid urbanization have confined people and their children with in the closed walls sitting before screens, laptops and video games.
To explore the business in this sector the Agro-Tourism Development Corporation of Pakistan has established a training institute for Agro-preneurs which are being trained to meet the organic style needs of tourism in the province.
The Punjab government during the budget 2019-20, had earmarked an amount of Rs 1187.734 million to spent on 18 new schemes including the establishment of thematic food Courts, Arts & Craft Shops and entertainment activity like zip lining, wall-climbing in Murree,. Attock Khurd, Chakwal, Tilla Jogian-Rohtas Fort Parkway and Khushab tourist sites.
It is worth mentioning here that British Backpackers Society has also recently termed Pakistan one of the friendliest countries on the planet, and has ranked it on the top destination for tourism with stunning mountain scenery. This numbering was carried out by the vote counts of its members of adventure travel experts from across the globe
Meanwhile according to a study carried out by the World Bank has identified 23 major tourist sites in the province Punjab, which could be outsourced by engaging male and women youth in the tourism sector, by giving them representation in most economic and policy making activities.
The Punjab government with engagement of the World Bank has requested provision of assistance of technical and financial resources to multiply tourism sector opportunities in the province, said the Punjab Tourism Department official.