Pakistan: An enchanting destination
Hiking: Trekkers walking on Godwin-Austen glacier towards Broad peak base camp.
Nature and adventure lovers can revel in the country's hotspots
By Zulfiqar Ali
Published: Sun 13 Aug 2017, 4:33 PM
Last updated: Sun 13 Aug 2017, 6:39 PM
Tourism has become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world and it is closely linked to development of a country. A significant player in international commerce, tourism is also one of the main sources of income for many nations, and its promotion has generated economic benefits, as well as employment.
Tourism in Pakistan is a fast-growing industry. Known for its rich history and cultural heritage, the country is unique in that it is enriched with natural beauty and resources. Its mountains, hills, rivers, valleys and plains have placed it as one of the most attractive destinations on the world tourism map.
From the stretches of the Karakorams to the vast delta of the Indus River, Pakistan remains a captivating land of nature and high adventure.
Mountaineering, trekking, mountain and desert jeep safaris, camel safaris and bird-watching are some of the activities that attract adventure and nature lovers to Pakistan.
Its snow-clad valleys of Gilgit, Hunza and Skardu offer scenic beauty and a treat for tourists, while the lower Himalayan valleys of Swat, Kaghan and Chitral in the Hindukush range equally share the natural beauty in Northern Pakistan.
The rise of tourism in the mountainous region has generated vital jobs in the hospitality industry for the locals. It is in this context that Swat valley Taleban is known as the 'Switzerland of the East', and has over 40,000 people employed at its 800 large and small hotels.
Right from the hills to plains, Pakistan has several enchanting tourist spots that make the country one of the most attractive holiday destinations in the world. There are a series of captivating hill-resorts between Murree and Abbottabad. Murree is a very popular hill station, about 50 km north of Pakistan capital Islamabad, while Abbottabad, a city with a British atmosphere, is in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Besides its scenic and serene tourist spots, Pakistan is also known for its culture, and its heritage sites have contributed to its top ranking in the world destinations. The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report of World Economic Forum in 2009 tagged Pakistan as one of the top 25 tourist destinations for its World Heritage sites, which ranges from mangroves to the 5,000-year-old cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation, including Mohenjodaro and Harappa.
Unfortunately, the Pakistan tourism sector also faced hard times following the 9/11 terror attacks, much like other countries, and its massive earthquake in 2005 hit the tourism industry adversely. Other incidents such as the Taleban capturing the Swat Valley in 2010, also dented the country's image as a tourism destination.
But over the years, the country has made great strides in the field of tourism. In 2010, Lonely Planet summarised Pakistan as, "tourism's 'next big thing' for more years than we care to remember. [But] world media headlines [always] send things off the rails".
With the marked improvement in security situation, the tourism sector witnessed a rapid growth, so much so that in 2016, one million tourists visited Pakistan's Northern Areas.
The economy generated approximately $1 billion in revenue, following the arrival of 1,040,000 international tourists in 2015. The number of people employed by the hospitality industry reached over 1.42 million in the same year.
The direct contribution of travel and tourism to Pakistan's GDP in 2015 was Rs328.3 million ($3.1 million), constituting 2.8 per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product, according to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017, released by World Economic Forum.
Apart from the arrival of international tourists, Pakistan's domestic tourism industry is estimated at 50 million tourists, travelling across the country usually in the summer season between May and August.
By 2025, the number of tourists is estimated to reach 1.7 million. According to the government forecast, tourism will contribute Rs1 trillion ($9.5 billion) to Pakistan's economy.