With regards to amazing scenes and stunning landscapes, Pakistan is totally incomparable.
Do you think Switzerland is the most dazzling spot on this planet?
You may have heard some wonderful tales about Pakistan as a travel industry center point from your folks and grandparents. The 70s, specifically, were the decades when the travel industry in Pakistan saw its prime.
The photos of those days can even now be found doing rounds on the web, bragging plenty of guests from all around.
“It’s a part of the world that usually makes headlines for all the wrong reasons…”
In 2009, the World Economic Forum’s travel and tourism competitiveness report ranked Pakistan as one of the top 25 percent tourist destinations for its world heritage sites. Pakistan’s rich heritage is one that outdoes many countries of the world.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has enlisted six Pakistani sites as ‘world heritage sites’. These include the magnificent Shalimar Gardens. the fort in Lahore, the Makli monuments in Sindh, the ruins of Moenjodaro also in Sindh, Rohtas Fort near Jhelum, Buddhist ruins in Takht-i-Bahi and the ancient city of Taxila. 18 other sites, including the Baltit Fort in Hunza and the tomb of Shah Rukne Alam in Multan, have been classified as ‘tentative sites’ by the same.
(The Makli graveyard in Thatta famous for its architecture. PHOTO: FILE)
(The Shalimar Garden in Lahore. PHOTO: CPS/FILE)
It’s not just heritage.
Geographically, the country is as rich as it gets. By the snow-capped mountains of the north to the deserts of Thar; from the plains of Punjab to the plateau of Potohar; from the Salt range to the coast of Makran; the country comes solid on the scale of geographical diversity. Lush green fields, healthy hill stations, azure skies, and clear rivers – you get all here.
(The rocky mountains of Zhob, Balochistan. PHOTO: M ASIF NAWAZ)
Then there’s the culture – the sumptuous cuisines, the multitude of languages, the flamboyant attire, the soulful music, and the genial demeanor.
(Intricate art on public buses and trucks is now a part of Pakistani culture. PHOTO: AFP)
We have cities brimming with all the progression of modern life, and villages where ‘saag’ and ‘makai ki roti’ are still devoured beneath peepal trees with stocky glasses of lassi! All this ascertains the great potential that Pakistan has as a grand tourist destination.
(Peanuts roasted in the sand are a specialty in Pakistan and are sold on the street. PHOTO: ONLINE)
(Devotees performing ‘dhamaal’ to the sounds of dhol is a special sight for tourists. PHOTO: REUTERS)
But then, as this article points out, the problem here lies in the world ‘potential’.
Despite the excess of offerings that Pakistan can make to its tourists, ‘Pakistan has fallen behind neighboring India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan’ when it comes to tourism, and that’s where the bad news begins.
Given the political instability of the country, which can be dated back to about forever, it comes off as no surprise that many international travel agencies warn their clients not to visit Pakistan. Let international tourism be; even domestic tourism has been affected unfavorably by the waves of terrorism and lack of law and order in the country.
Moreover, natural calamities such as the 2005 earthquake and 2009 floods have also added to the chagrin. Despite this, the Discovery Channel’s Insight Guides series on Pakistan begs to differ, and rather states that in spite of its dubious disposition, statistics show that Pakistan remains an excessively safe country for tourism!
Accordingly, tourists will tour. It may be argued that it’s actually the tourism industry of Pakistan that’s keeping the tourists at bay. True, there are some places in the country that must not be recommended to travel to, but it’s due to a lack of will on the part of the government that the tourism industry is on life-support even in the safest places.
Here’s a quote from the same article,
“According to an analyst at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad, Pakistan’s tourism sector has failed to grow due to continued mismanagement of the industry. There’s nothing new there.”
No surprises there. Accordingly, the same World Economic Forum that was all praise for our heritage in 2009, has ranked Pakistan at 122 out of 140 countries in its latest travel and tourism competitiveness report. Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, and Zimbabwe, all have fared better than Pakistan. (Just as a consolation though, that’s three places better than where we were last year!)
Attractive Sight Of The Country
It is not far from the truth though. The poor state of leisure tourism in Pakistan emanates basically from the sheer absence of any tourism facilities. A single look on the Pakistan government’s tourism website can give you a pretty clear idea of that.
Advertisements and propagation of Pakistan as a tourist destination in international media is another sorry tale. The basic services to those who visit the country are at a bare minimum. Moreover, many of the tourist spots are consistently facing gross negligence and nobody seems to be bothered.
Tourism, like every industry, needs its due investment before it’s profitable. While there’s no input, sadly, it’s only just that tourism is neither alive nor kicking in the country.
Thinking About Pak
But then, on a positive and honest note, there’s one entity in Pakistan that pretty much makes up (or at least tries to) for all these fallacies, and it’s the people of the country! Nothing, perhaps, sums it up more comprehensively than what Lonely Planet has to say about Pakistan:
“Although conservative, Pakistanis are by nature a welcoming and hospitable people to foreigners, trying to get by in the face of indifference from their government and occasional hostility from the outside world… The scams and hustle you might experience in heavily travelled India are nowhere to be seen here. Instead, look forward to spontaneously offered cups of tea and conversations about cricket. You will feel like you have the country to yourself. Attractions that would have been splashed over the glossy pages of newspaper travel supplements are almost empty. While enthusiastic travel advice comes tinged with official government travel advisories, you’ll need to keep one eye on the news before booking your ticket – but once here, you’ll realise that Pakistan really is one of the world’s best-kept travel secrets.”
Therefore, the next time you’re on a break from work and wish to see all things beautiful and exciting, pack your bags and come to Pakistan. It might not be a bed of roses, but you won’t be disappointed.
And that’s the promise of Pakistan!