Tourism is considered to be one of the biggest and most profitable industries around the world. It requires comparatively little investment for massive returns and cash flow. Its a chance for every country to preserve and showcase its heritage and attract foreign exchange.
The tourism industry has been utilized by countries around the world to strengthen their economies and stabilize their currencies thanks to increasing international currency in flow. It’s great for local businesses, helps increase tax returns and is helpful in raising the living standard of a country.
Pakistan has seen its tourism industry decline over the past few decades or so. Foreign tourists, especially from Europe and America, have diminished over that period due to security problems and terrorism threats in the country.
However, Pakistan still gets thousands (if not more) of foreign tourists each year, the majority of them being from Asian countries. Pakistan also hosts remains of some of the oldest civilizations, heritage and monuments which attracts archaeologists to the country. And let’s not forget the picturesque northern and hilly areas that Pakistan possesses.
The amount of tourists that Pakistan gets is purely organic, i.e. without any government intervention or promotion. To top it off, the only platform available to international tourists — so that they can learn and understand what Pakistan holds for them as a tourist destination and hotspot — the tourism websites, are malfunctioning. There are a ton of other issues that affect tourism in Pakistan but our sites are perhaps the most public and primary sources for information on traveling in our country for foreigners.
Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, federal and provincial governments have shown almost no interest in the industry. A brief look at any of the tourism websites is shocking to say the least and can’t possibly be of any assistance for foreigners planning or thinking about visiting Pakistan.
Pakistan International Tourism Website (PTDC):
Let’s start with the official tourism website by the Government of Pakistan. When you search “Pakistan tourism” or anything similar, you will find the website on the first page of Google search results.
As soon as you visit the website, you are greeted with multiple flashing red symbols stating “New!” You won’t be the only one if you thought you accidentally launched a fraudulent or phishing website. These sorts of symbols are often seen on such fishy websites and is definitely not the type of welcome one is looking for when visiting a tourism website.
The download icon at the top-right corner of the website is not actually a download icon, but a link to media gallery which contains videos and wallpapers. One of the major design flaws in the PTDC homepage is that there’s no “Welcome to Pakistan” in English, considered as a global language and the language of the website. Instead the designers went with Korean and Chinese. There are also two selection panes for Google translate, instead of one.
Leaving such aesthetics alone, let’s take a look at the development options undertaken for the website. The website uses Adobe Flash for its main slider showcase. So if you use a mobile phone, tablet or any such device, you won’t be able to see anything apart from a little bit of text at the top and the bottom. Adobe and the rest of the world say the plugin is dead, yet the developers behind the Pakistan tourism website were unaware of the happenings on the web. Most of the world, including foreign visitors using the latest browsers on mobile and desktop can’t possibly view or use the website.
That’s only the beginning of it all. If you’ve got Flash installed, you still won’t be able to do much. The showcase which is displaying a few pictures from a few tourist cities has three tabs. When you hover your mouse over any of the tabs, a very slow animation brings about more options which should let the user get more details. It seems, however, that the developers forgot to rename and link all 14 of those menu options. Users get “undefined” on every single one of those menu options. Talk about dead links.
There’s a section below the slider for videos. Sadly, it’s empty. The links beside the flashing “New!” signs, are related to PTDC services and employees but, for some unknown reason, are placed at the front page of the tourism website.
Not Sure if Serious or Trolling: A Screen grab from the Tourism website
We would also like to mention the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions” page here. It’s not clear whether PTDC is trolling the visitors or whether it’s a mistake. The picture says it all. Of course, how to come to Pakistan was supposed to answer the visa procedure, guidelines and such things. Simply answering “A Plane” is nothing less than a troll reply. The reply is followed by a picture and a text saying “Islamabad Lah” (Not visible in photo due to a small text box on the site).
Finally, clicking on any link takes the visitor to the old website. That website is relatively better but will only be accessed by someone who actually manages to force his way into the website. That page also has its bugs and flaws, including a random number “3” at the bottom left of every page. The website’s copyright flag is also outdated and still states 2015. There’s much more but these points should suffice in explaining the situation of the website.
Pakistan also has provincial/state tourism websites which include Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir. There is no dedicated tourism website hosted by the Balochistan government.
Punjab Tourism website is perhaps the most outdated website out of the whole bunch, in terms of design. The website uses a design reminiscent of the dial-up internet era. TDCP website is unusable on smartphones, is difficult to navigate and despite being updated with content, does not look like its intended to pull the crowd to visit Punjab. It faces the same problem as the PTDC website, usage of Adobe Flash which doesn’t work on most phone or PC browsers.
Having tender notices and other such info on the main page definitely looks bad on an already outdated website. Punjab’s tourism website’s copyright flag (and obviously website design) hasn’t been updated since 2008. As shocking as it may seem, Punjab government is not interested in developing the website as a platform for tourist assistance. Punjab’s website does offer a Facebook page link for interaction but the page hasn’t had any status update for the past 5 months.
Sindh’s government has held several events boasting about how they are working for the better of Sindh’s culture and tourism. Sindh has a single website for culture, tourism and antiques. The website is a mess, with logos over links, outdated content, no arrangements or organisations of webpage, messed up pull-down menus and pictures of the ruling politicians of the province due to unknown reasons.
It offers no information or insight on what Sindh holds for tourists and how they should plan about their trips. There is close to zero help for local or international tourists. There are no social shortcuts. The website can be called incomplete, despite its completion two years ago (when its design was last updated).
Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJKT):
Azad Jammu Kashmir has a decent tourism website. There’s adequate information and the website is very easy to navigate. Even the website’s older design doesn’t look that bad but the website has not seen any kind of update since 2014 and the last copyright update was in 2013. We can’t say for sure how accurate the information on the website would be since it hasn’t been managed in such a long time.
KPK probably has one of the best websites in Pakistan along with Gilgit-Balitistan (GB) Tourism. Both websites come with up-to-date designs and updated content. Since both websites have similar features and flaws, we summed up the reviews.
The news section, tourist guidance information and procedures for visiting the areas and renting accommodations are mentioned. KPK website offers information regarding top tourist spots and tourist attractions related to different categories like Gandhara, Culture, Adventures or Archaeology.
Both websites offer updated weather information for tourist spots as well. While the GB website has some useless info like the area’s political leaders, KPK website focuses on the province’s beautiful sceneries. KPK’s website is the most socially connected website as well. However, there is always room for improvement and both websites could do with better navigation controls for international tourists, as both websites lack most guidelines for foreigners.
KPK website does forward users to non-existent Vimeo, Google Plus, YouTube accounts. The rest of the social accounts work though.
Google offers more insight into Pakistan tourist destinations than our own official websites. The worst being the national website followed by the provincial/regional websites of Punjab, Sindh and Azad Kashmir. All four of these websites need a complete redesign along with regular content updates. Local websites similar to KPK and GB tourism websites would be a good start.
Malaysia is one of the countries which relies heavily on its tourism industry with most of its income generated from the sector. It is also the best example to follow for Pakistani tourism departments. Their website is up-to-date, offers superior navigation and tells a lot about the country and its hotspots. Tourists can even buy packages, stay updated by subscription and get complete guidance information straight from the website.
Similarly, websites for Australia and USA offer a superior experience with separate versions for Mobile Phones and PCs. Tourists can get all sorts of information about the country and access the country’s different state-specific websites. These websites aren’t far off from what Malaysia Tourism offers on their website.
Offering access to provincial tourism websites is a must for the national tourism website of Pakistan. Sadly, the designers forgot about it (and they forgot about a whole lot of other stuff). All of the provincial and regional websites need to be updated to international standards as well if Pakistan is to promote tourism. Tourism could become a source of income and foreign exchange, it’s a high ROI (Return on Investment) industry and holds potential for massively improving the country’s GDP.