Pakistan’s tourism industry, currently estimated at $22 billion, is booming

Pakistan’s tourism industry, currently estimated at $22 billion, is booming and is set to get a further boost at the hands of the country’s newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan.

World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) forecasts the country’s tourism sector to grow to over $39.8 billion within a decade.

While the previous government (2013-2018) helped revive tourism industry, Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government plans to take it to the next level by establishing four resorts each year and develop beaches of international standards.

Addressing the nation soon after taking oath, Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to utilize all the resources to boost tourism to strengthen the ailing economy.

“Pakistan has huge tourism potential. We will promote tourism to strengthen the economy,” Khan said in his first televised address to the nation.

Manifesto of his party, unveiled shortly before elections held on July 25, 2018, states ‘the Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaaf (PTI)-led government will promote and position Pakistan as Asia’s Best Kept Secret in the global tourism market in order to boost tourism by building twenty tourist resorts in its five-year tenure”.

Tourism Industry in Pakistan has already witnessed a boom as law and order has improved across the country in the last five years. The country of 220 million is already known for its hospitality globally.

Military operations launched by Pakistan armed forces during 2013-2017 against militants wiped out terrorism and militancy across the country especially from northern areas known for lush green valleys, fairy meadows, sparkling streams and snow-capped mountains, paving the way for revival of tourism.

Government has also eased visa policy for foreigners which has played a key role in attracting a large numbers of foreign tourists.

Pakistanis walk towards what was once an island, on the now dried-out Hanna Lake, outside the Baluchistan province capital of Quetta on Oct. 3, 2001. (AP)

GDP contribution

A report compiled by The World Travel & Tourism Council, revealed in March this year that travel and tourism contributed $8.8 billion, approximately 2.9 percent of total GDP in 2017, and is forecast to rise by 5.9 percent in 2018, by 5.8 percent in the next 10 years to $16 billion, 3.0 percent of total GDP, in 2028.

Meanwhile, total contribution of travel & tourism to Pakistan’s GDP stood at $22 billion, 7.4 percent of GDP in 2017, and is forecast to rise by 5.8 percent in 2018, and to rise by 5.4 percent to $39.8 billion, 7.4 percent of GDP in 2028.  At the moment, Pakistan lags behind when it comes to the average GDP share of region’s travel and tourism sector.

In sharp contrast, India’s tourism industry is worth $234 billion (9.4 percent of GDP in 2017) and is forecast to rise by 7.5 percent in 2018, and to by 6.9 percent to $492.2 billion, 9.9 percent of GDP in 2028, according to the WTTC.

Soon after the change of government in Pakistan, following general elections held on July 25, 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has vowed to give priority to boost the country’s tourism industry.

Tourists visit the Shahi Hammam, one of the only surviving 400-year-old Turkish baths in the sub-continent, in Pakistan’s historic and cultural city of Lahore, on October 7, 2017. (AFP)

Framework to incentivize tourism

Experts believe, Tourism in Pakistan has undoubtedly immense potential given its diverse culture, heritage and natural endowment.

In order to boost tourism industry government of Pakistan has announced implementation of a framework to incentivize private sector investments in upgradation and development of new facilities which in particular would encourage “themed” tourism such as eco-tourism and other special incentives.

“We are improving processes to issue tourist visas, in particular for groups and champion initiatives, which strengthen our visa on arrival program and eliminate NoC condition for high potential tourist destinations besides providing four-star accommodation at affordable cost,” Fawad Chaudhary Federal Information Minister told Al Arabiya.

Soon after coming to power, Imran Khan-led government in Pakistan announced that it will create 100 million jobs in its five-year term (2018-2023), which critics believe is an uphill task.

However, Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team is confident of achieving this target. Sources in the government said that they are banking on tourism and housing industries to achieve the target.

“Khan’s team is depending largely on tourism industry to create millions of jobs in next five years,” a source close to Prime minister Imran Khan told Al Arabiya English.

A report launched by the World Travel & Tourism Council earlier this year in March revealed that the travel and tourism sector of Pakistan produced 3,894,000 jobs across Pakistan in 2017 which was 6.5 percent of total employment.

“This is expected to rise by 2.6 percent in 2018 to 3,997,000 jobs and rise by 2.3 percent to 5,017,000 jobs in 2028 (6.5 percent of total),” revealed the report.

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