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Truly Paradise – Pakistan UNWTO 2-Day Workshop Rawalpindi 29-30 January ’17

February 9, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The United Nations World Tourism Organization held a two-day Workshop on Pakistan tourism revival under the theme: Truly Paradise – Pakistan; initiated by the present MD (PTDC)
Mr. Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor Khan with invited guests of honor Mr. George Drakapoulos (President & CEO) and
Harry Hwang (Regional Deputy Director for Asia-Pacific); moderated by Mr Aftab Rana (Founder: Sustainable Tourism Foundation of Pakistan) and attended by delegates from government and private sector.

In a presentation by Harry Hwang:1.322 million people travel abroad (7 percent growth of international tourist arrival).
The Industry created 10% of global GDP to the world’s economies and 1 in 11 jobs.
Asia accounts for 30 percent of the world tourism receipts, led by Thailand as top earner followed by China.
Destination Pakistan ironically stands at 124 out of 136 countries.

“Tourism has become a passport to prosperity, a driver of peace, and a transformative force for improving millions of lives.” Taleb Rifai (past UNWTO CEO)

On the borders of China, Afghanistan, Iran, India;
Pakistan has been a natural gateway to Asia since thousands of years. A part of the Northern area (Gilgit), which had remained, not only the main staging post along the Silk Road into China and Central Asia, but the ardent terrain served a sacred path for Chinese pilgrims who trot the highlands seeking divine pleasure at Holy Buddhist sites that dot along and nearby the present Karakoram Highway. Takhat-e-Bahi and Taxila as the main centers of Buddhism, it was handed down from here, reaching afar to India and Far-east.

Today, these mountainous areas sprinkled with waterfalls, lakes in the lap of the world’s largest mountain systems:
The Himalaya, the Kara-koram and the Hindukush, which boasts some of the world’s highest peaks soaring over 8,000 meters.
K2 (8,611 meters) is the world’s 2nd highest mountain, surrounded by literally hundreds of peaks rising over 7000 and 6000 meters, with an air of mystery of the origin of mountain tribe.

Down South and in the central plains, more than 7000 years old Ancient Civilization thrived along the Indus River at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa.
At a time span of 3c BC to 10c AD, the rich soil attracted un-invited invaders like Alexander of Macedonia, the Huns (from Central Asia) and Mahmud of Ghazni who mercilessly carried out mass killings and destruction of sites, respectively. The glory of the Gandhara kingdom burnt to the ground, now remain to be seen at the sites in a state of ruins.
Gandhara Civilization developed finery in art, introduced learning institutes and hospitals for health care.
It was here that the first environmental-friendly concept of planting the trees along the road side was introduced b King Asoka of the Chandra Gupta Dynasty.
A young visionary, Mohammad bin Qasim the great invader, introduced Islam and Multan and Uchchh Sharif became centers of learning and Sufism.

The semi-desert area shouldering Cholistan and Tharparkar, some with pockets of large sand dunes are renowned of its colorful creation of fabric and design works. These fascinating places are dotted with exquisitely designed Mausoleums of Sufi saints and the Nawabs (self-claimed rulers),
many were built, inspired with architecture style of Iran and Central Asia, using blue tile and octagonal structures.

The Moghul dynasty and the British canon graced the central and south areas of the land with some of the most imposing buildings,
including the magnificent Badshahi Masjid, the awesome Lahore Fort, the romancing arcades of the Shalimar Gardens of Love,
the Grand masjid of Thatta, and the Victorian and medieval British monuments like the Lahore high Court, the Lahore Museum, Kim’s Gun and many splendid buildings in the commercial hub on the coastal belt of the land:
Karachi (Sind), which has a stretch of 1,046 kilometers
coastline to the west, past Gwadar (soon to become a world-class Port city of the country), towards Quetta (Balochistan); the mineral –rich land with huge reserves of natural gas.

With all the aforesaid natural and man-made treasures, Pakistan is not on the travel plan of globe trotters, adventure travelers, nature lovers, culture and leisure tourists.

Tourism in Pakistan become a primary victim since 9/11 and thereafter, attack on Afghanistan on the whim of “war on terror” and also impacted by internal political conflict, as well as various structural, infrastructure issues. The nation bestowed with mind-blowing landscape, cultural variation and history dating back to ancient civilization, with all the right travel products for a traveler, Pakistan’s tourism, by itself, has been unable to build peace and there seems to be many hurdles to revival of tourism due to degenerating local and global agenda.

I have formulated the following Wish List if this nation, with a very few caring hands in the Industry want to develop a strategies to see tourism recovery, which requires immediate action and implementation and remove deterrent from within.

First a few setbacks, on a broad spectrum, as to what are the real causes hampering the revival of tourism in Pakistan:
1) There is no Federal Ministry of Tourism
2) There is no single National Tourism Board (Tourism authorities in different provinces have failed to put an action plan for implementation)
3) Ease of visa. Presently difficult, time consuming process and expensive visa fee (about 150 Euros).
4) Inability by authority to control and stop ugly, eye-sore hotels, restaurants, particularly along scenic tourist spots like the rivers and lakes.
This can be achieved by an independent office under directive of UNWTO be set up with the sole authority to pass structure and
construction plan of hotels and restaurants at scenic places.
5) Lack of sense of urgency and inter-departmental coordination.
6) Inability to take up study on the role models of destinations that had confronted a clampdown in tourism and how it revived.
7) Inability to see the silver linings. The short-haul Asian markets, which can be fairly easy to tap with price-driven tactical campaigns and participation
at regional travel events like PATA Travel Mart (Asia-Pacific countries), Arabian Travel Market (Dubai), ITB-Asia (Singapore).
8) To accept the irony of the fact that western countries do not accept Pakistan as a travel destination. Travel advisory and Embassies impose restriction
on travel to Pakistan and consumer travel cannot secure personal and health insurance. And therefore, attending huge travel events like WTM London, ITB Berlin will not reap effective marketing to Pakistan tourism revival.
9) No incentive to Low-cost airlines to operate in more Asian destination flying passengers to Pakistan from foreign destinations (such as UAE, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan).
10) Inability to work with Travel Media (unawareness to differentiate travel media and main stream media) and lack of flow of information
via mobile apps.
11) Lack of tourism information on the net and at Pakistan’s Foreign Missions.
12) Problems of insecurity of lives and property while travelling in the country and problems of tourist scams and exploitation.
13) Problems related to congestion and deterioration of tourist sites and lack of development of new sites with future potential.

Recipe for Revival of International Tourism

Dissolution of Federal Ministry of Tourism in 2011 was a clear statement that tourism is not a priority for the government.
Lack of vision and inappropriate allocation of human capital has created problems with the management of various tourism related organizations, which are scattered, lack integration and direction, causing disconnection.

There is an urgent need to establish a national Pakistan Tourism Authority (PTA) to act as a mechanism to define policy and manage tourism in an interconnected manner at the national, regional and international le…

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