ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s tourism industry is starting to thrive with annual arrivals more than tripling since 2013.
A report aired by a private news channel, tourists are now returning to areas such as the Swat Valley, a northern region known as the Switzerland of Pakistan that was controlled by the militants between 2007 and 2009.
As security improves, annual tourist arrivals to Pakistan have more than tripled since 2013 to 1.75 million last year, while domestic travelers rose 30 percent to 38.3 million, according to the state-owned Pakistan Tourism Development Corp.
The World Travel and Tourism Council puts the total contribution of tourism to Pakistan’s economy at $19.4 billion last year or 6.9 percent of gross domestic product. In a decade, the WTTC expects that to rise to $36.1 billion.
The managing director of Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel Ltd., a London-based operator Jonny Bealby said that has run trips to Pakistan for two decades, said his tours to the South Asian nation are up 60 percent from last year.
Bealby said the main improvement in Pakistan has been infrastructure. The roads have improved immeasurably reducing journey times.
Keen to shed the image that it’s unsafe for visitors, Pakistan has begun a nascent tourism drive and this summer placed adverts across the sides of London’s iconic red buses. Road infrastructure has also been boosted across key holiday regions.
Hotel bookings also increased 80 percent last year, according to Jovago, Pakistan’s biggest accommodation booking website.
Meanwhile, resort spots like the northern town of Naran are buzzing with construction work, while hotels and restaurants enjoy a healthy trade from Pakistani holiday makers.