Islamabad: Pakistan is not exactly known as a tourist hotspot for a variety of political and security reasons.
But for young Pakistanis, it is a status that needs changing. With their use of social media, these digital millennials are showing off their country’s landscapes, culture and tourism potential.
These are the main factors that will “bring great change” in putting Pakistan on the global tourist map. “Social media and youngsters are promoting a soft image of Pakistan to the world,” said Noshina Saleem, communications professor at the University of Punjab in Lahore. “Students are making groups, blogs and (web) pages. “They are taking these initiatives and getting groups to travel to parts of Pakistan.”
Pakistanis say they have it all — green-covered mountains and extensive beaches. Their culture is steeped in tradition and the cuisine is globally renowned. However, hopes of putting the country on the world’s tourism radar has faced many obstacles, over security and terrorism concerns.
Today, Pakistanis, while highlighting the renewed sense of security, are putting in an effort to woo back visitors, with attractions such as scenic landscapes of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the administrative province in the north-western region of the country.
The annual development programme for tourism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during 2017-18 allotted 811.77 million Pakistani rupees (Dh22.37 million approximately), according to reports. Increased tourism opportunities is among the “important agenda” of the new government under Imran Khan, officials in Islamabad said. “Pakistan has historical cities and locations, halal tourism, beautiful nature and reasonable prices,” said Syed Hassan Raza, Additional Foreign Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Pakistan is a hidden gem; it is one of the most unexplored countries and people have to come and see it for themselves.”
Pakistan’s untapped potential
Nearly 1.75 million tourists visited Pakistan in 2017. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) annual report for 2018, the total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was 2,349 billion Pakistani rupees, equivalent to 7.4 per cent of the GDP in 2017. The same report said investments in the sector totalled 410.4 billion Pakistani rupees in 2017, and that it is expected to rise by nearly 4 per cent over the next 10 years.