BEIJING: Pakistan launched its first-ever tourism TV channel “Discover Pakistan” on Mar 22, marking a major step towards Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision to boost this fledgling sector as a growth engine.
Tourism is gaining weight in Pakistan’s economy. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2019, the tourism industry contributed 5.9% to Pakistan’s GDP, with 3.9 million jobs created. The government is also elevating tourism higher on its agenda. A 12-member National Coordination Committee on Tourism has been initiated in the hope of creating more job opportunities and injecting impetus into Pakistan’s economic development.
Pakistan is a fertile land blessed with rich natural endowments. Its incredible landscape, biological diversity, and historical sites provide a multiplicity of options for tourists from all over the world. As the country is witnessing an unprecedented tourism boost, more tourists from the international community, especially China, are to be unlocked provided the right formula, China Economic Net (CEN) reported on Friday.
Pakistan-China exchanges in the tourism industry are in their infancy. Pakistan became a destination country for Chinese group tourists since 2003. In 2019, 80, 000 Chinese people chose Pakistan as their travel destination, an increase of 60% than that in 2015. Meanwhile, there were 155 million outbound tourists from China in 2019, representing a huge gap.
In an interview with Yang Jinsong, Director of the Institute of International Studies at China Tourism Academy (CTA), he recommended more publicity about Pakistan’s tourist industry. Amid the epidemic, many countries are using online platforms to accumulate strength for the tourism industry. In this regard, introducing the eye-catching scenery in Pakistan through short videos will be a good step forward in an era of social media.
The consumption habits of Chinese tourists is another area that calls for research. For example, Yang observes that while western tourists try to explore and experience almost everything in a foreign destination, Chinese people prefer their traditional food even when they are in other countries. Moreover, Chinese tourists like to buy special commodities and souvenirs during their journeys. “If a destination country can study the purchasing habits of tourists in-depth, it will promote the development of local tourism.”
Tourism in China usually peaks around the New Year holidays. During the rest of the year, people are too busy working or studying to devise a travel scheme by themselves. That’s why many travel agencies are facilitating from the beginning to the end of a journey. In this regard, the collaboration between Chinese and Pakistani travel agencies will provide a viable way to arrange tours to Pakistan.
For long-term linkage, a dedicated mechanism is set to be put in place. Currently, China Tourism Academy (CTA) is conducting country-specific studies intending to establish a platform for Pak-China tourism cooperation. On the Pakistani side, recent decisions of ending mandatory No Objection Certificates (NOC) for foreign tourists to visit certain parts of the country, launching online visa services for 175 countries, and offering on-arrival visas for 50 countries have made travel to Pakistan easier and more convenient. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Pak-China diplomatic relationship this year and the forthcoming 2022 as a tourism year, the Pakistani embassy has created a web portal in the Chinese language to promote travel to Pakistan.
With mesmerizing natural view already in place, facilitating measures both before and during travel will add to the scenic Splendor. Transport infrastructure should be prioritised for enhanced accessibility, as exemplified by the exploding winter tourism in Swat Valley due to the operation of the Swat Motorway. Furthermore, reassuring safeguard precautions and agreeable resort services will make a tourist attraction hard to be refused, “If the visa processing can be simplified, shuttle flights can be increased and 5G network coverage can be improved, I believe the Chinese tourists will be more willing to visit Pakistan, ” envisaged Yang.
While expressing willingness to provide a reference for Pakistan in scenic spot construction and market order regulation, Yang reminds that each country has its distinct national conditions and sometimes cannot directly copy other countries’ experience.