Earlier in the month of April 2019, Pakistan hosted a tourism Summit titled ‘Pakistan Tourism Industry – the Way Forward. The conference outlined the governments new tourism policy. Speaking at the summit- Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi stated that the government was facilitating a visa policy so its easier for the world to travel to Pakistan. The new tourism policy is based on facilitating international tourists which would help build Pakistan’s positive narrative, project its soft power and improve standing in the comity of nations. He also added that the tourism sector was an important element in the foreign policy and stressed the need for developing deeper insight into the tourism industry through a coordinated mechanism and consultative forums. Reportedly, Pakistan’s tourism industry has increased by 300% from 2013 till 2017. The recent past also witnessed a promotion of Pakistan through international vloggers such as Eva ZuBeck- who supplied the global community with critical information regarding the various tourism sites in Pakistan- highlighting the history, culture and nature. The recent summit was also attended by a number of renowned foreign vloggers- it is essential for the government to further tap into the use of social media in enhancing Pakistan’s soft image and promoting tourism.
The PM- under the new visa policy- enabled residents from 175 countries to apply for online visas. As per the new visa policy, e-visa facility will initially be provided to five countries Turkey, China, Malaysia, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. The citizens of these countries will be able to apply for Pakistani visa via email at an $8 fee. The policy will be extended to an additional 170 countries. Meanwhile, Pakistan has opened its first International Information Tourist Corner in Belgium to offer Europeans Pakistan’s unique culture, stunning scenic view of its northern areas and the traditional lifestyle of mountain people. Launched jointly in collaboration with the Embassy of Pakistan in Brussels and Tribes, a Dutch Company established in Brussels, the tourist corner is the first-ever initiative by the Pakistani mission in Belgium to promote tourism in Pakistan.
The recent uplift in Pakistani tourism has reportedly uplifted the economy of KP. Furthermore, Pakistan houses several ancient sites and sites of religious reverence for Sikhs, Hindu’s and Buddhists. It needs to be seen how the potential of Pakistan’s nature and historical sites would be preserved and harnessed.
Two important points that were highlighted by the PM regarding the tourism policy discussed the preservation of the scenic sites of Pakistan- which should not be subjected to vandalism and exploitation. There is a dire need to install a regulatory body which ensures that environmental destruction is not perpetuated due to increase in tourism. Secondly, Pakistan houses diverse communities and customs – therefore, tourism schemes must be carved out with local consensus and in line with local traditions – to ensure the traditional sanctity is not violated and the tourism really immerse in local cultures also.