Developing tourism

That Pakistan has tremendous potential for tourism is our old refrain. Though there is no denying the fact that Pakistan has some of the best tourist attractions in the world, there are other factors that contribute to increasing or decreasing the number of tourists that visit a country. World Tourism Day, which fell on September 27, was a good time to remember that to enhance tourism in a country, just having a vision is not sufficient – though encouragingly the current government has been talking about tourism promotion much more seriously than past governments. What we need now are strenuous efforts to promote tourism. Some of these efforts are directly related to the way we maintain and preserve our archaeological sites; the way we present our culture, which has to be tolerant of differences and diversity that tourists bring to the host country in terms of their attires and their culinary preferences; the manner in which we curate our museums, the way our youth relate to guests that look different; and the red tape or suspicion that our foreign-affairs ministry and security agencies mete out to prospective visitors.

Apart from highways and motorways, most access roads to tourist attractions lack basic facilities. A large number of approach roads to scenic spots in the country are permanently under construction. There is no specialised tourism police to facilitate tourists against hooliganism. Even our domestic tourists have been complaining of harassment and highhandedness at various places that should be free of all thuggish behaviour. There are hardly any camping pods installed where they should be. Apart from some of the highest mountains in the world we have beautiful places from Ayun in Kalash to Gorakh Hill in Sindh and from glaciers of Gilgit to the sandy beaches of Gwadar; but there are numerous hurdles that the tourists find off-putting. Tangible steps are required to remove these obstacles and to develop and rehabilitate new tourist spots across the country.
A lack of good tracks is another area that needs attention. Rest places and washrooms are in short supply beside the tracks. In all provinces there are places suitable for cable cars but one hardly finds any, even at the most beautiful of spots. Traditional festivals that we hold can be a good attraction for tourists but for that we need to develop a culture of tolerance as well. There is also a need to establish ski resorts in different snow-capped areas. Some attention also needs to be given to the hospitality industry in the country. With increasing unemployment in the country, tourism can provide much-needed job opportunities to our youth; and for that both the federal and provincial governments need to take this sector far more seriously.
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