A recent report published in the English newspaper Telegraph has painted quite a promising picture regarding Pakistan’s prospects of becoming a global tourism player.
It starts with Lonely Planet’s description of Pakistan in its first ever travel guide of 1973, stating, “If dope is what you want then you are going to the right place – hash and grass can be found just about everywhere.”
Reflecting on 1973’s Pakistan, the report presents the country as one of the best travel destinations. It also laments the period afterward that led to the country’s disappearance from the list of most coveted countries for travel.
The author, Oliver Smith, further suggests that the country is on its way to becoming ‘something special’ again. He accredits this improvement to the efforts of Pakistan’s current government.
New Visa Regime
Commending Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative of rolling out the easy visa policy, he says the premier’s “policy has so far extended to tweeting pictures of the country’s beaches and snow-capped mountains, hosting a two-day tourism summit last week, and, most significantly, cutting the red tape and entry requirements that have the potential to put off visitors.”
The report further appreciates that now, the residents of the UK, Turkey, China, Malaysia, and UAE can benefit from a new online e-visa system while most restrictions on mobility within the country have been removed.
The article also cited Jane Westwood of Wild frontiers, one of the UK tour operators to Pakistan. Westwood also appreciated the new changes in the visa regime. She said that the new visa regime “is also significantly cheaper, from £134 down to the equivalent of $60 [£46].”
Westwood also said that bookings for Pakistan tours have risen drastically in the past two or three years. In 2015, Pakistan received 563,000 overseas arrivals while in 2016, the figure rose to 965,000. The number of tourists coming to Pakistan kept growing, making it 1.6 million in 2017 and 1.9 million in 2018.
The report further mentioned that both Portugal and France relaxed their travel advice on Pakistan last year. It also underlined that the arrival of British Airways in the country is also a good start. It termed Pakistan’s potential for growth in tourism as ‘almost limitless’.