Balochistan’s Development through Tourism

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Tourism is a gigantic and thriving industry; it has multiplied its worth several times domestically, regionally and internationally in the past few years. It is not only about travelling; it is considered to be a proven tool for sustainable economic growth, social inclusiveness; employment and poverty reduction, cultural value and mutual understanding and peace and security which have manifold direct and indirect beneficial ramifications for the communities of destinations.

Balochistan, being the largest province consisting about 44% of Pakistan’s land area, has all the potential to attract domestic, regional and international tourists from around the globe. From oldest world heritage sites to mesmerizing natural beauties; from adventurous landsides to the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks; from desert to beaches and from hills to dale- all these natural miracles await the tourists with warming welcome in the province. The hills which earned the sobriquet, “sleeping beauty”, and “princess of hope” are already renowned internationally.

According to UNWTO Tourism Highlights, International tourist arrivals grew by 7 % in 2017 to 1,323 million and generated US$ 1.6 trillion in export earnings. UNWTO also forecasts for international tourist arrivals to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. According to ‘statista.com’, In the European travel industry, domestic tourism contributed more to GDP as 23% of EU travelers participated in only domestic travel in 2015 and domestic travel industry expenditure reached just under 959 billion euros in 2017.

In Pakistan, according to Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, international tourist to the country have more than tripled since 2013. Around 1.75 million Tourists visited in 2017, which has risen to over 1.9 million tourists in 2018. Revenue from tourism was $19.4 billion that made up 6.9% of GDP of Pakistan. This amount is to rise to $36.1 billion within a decade. Tourism in Balochistan is a developing industry, and is overseen by the Tourism Directorate under the Government of Balochistan.

There are basically two driving factors which directly effects the tourism industry. One being linked to the traveler; second to the travelling destination. The attribute which is linked to the traveler is all about spending. The more money the traveler has; the more he/she spends in traveling domestically, regionally and internationally. Balochistan has a greater chance to come in the limelight and become preferential for the domestic, regional as well as international tourists. As there is an incessant rise in the middle class domestically, regionally and internationally; all eager to travel for new exotic experiences. Homi Kharas, an expert on the global middle class, estimated in a recent study that 3.2 billion or 42% of the total world population already belonged to middle class and each year 140+ million people will make it middle class.

Furthermore, by 2020 most of the population will belong to middle class, while majority of them coming from Asia. Almost nine out of every ten new people who make it to middle class live in Asia. According to political economist Akbar Zaidi, 42% of Pakistan’s population, roughly 84 million belong to middle class, a population larger in size than Germany. Another study by The Washington DC based urban institute divulged that Pakistan’s middle income population is around 50 million or 25%.

In simple words, middle class means those who can afford to travel domestically, regionally and internationally; who have a vary diet who can face and cover unexpected expenses as well as education and who can buy an automobile.

“As we have these billions of people emerging into global middle class they need to be fed, they need to be housed, the need to be powered, the need transport, they want to travel and see the world. So there are tremendous opportunities for an expansion of economic activity to meet their needs” expressed Homi Kharas (Pew Trust).

The second attribute effecting tourism is linked with the travelling destination. Within it, the very first factor is the presence of tourist attractions. In Balochistan, tourism is based on its diverse culture, people and landscapes. The variety of attraction range from heritage sites to marine tourists’ spots, from religious tourism potential to wildlife destinations, from natural experiences to adventurous excitements. The second factor is level of security for the tourist and the inclusion of non-state actors into the national politics, ultimately making its way towards overall peaceful environment in the province. Third being availability of capital and provision of infrastructure facilities, investments under CPEC and relevant projects covering every aspects of infrastructural development along the tourist destinations of Balochistan.

The fourth factor is management of these attractions. Tourism in Balochistan is managed and overseen specifically by the Tourism Directorate of the Government of Balochistan, under the guidance of incumbent Chief Minister Jam Kamal. The fifth and a very crucial factor is the marketing and publicity at International level. The Government of Balochistan has planned to establish art and cultural centres in Quetta, Nasirabad and Sibi, with an aim to promote the diverse and rich culture of the province. Moreover many NGO’s, YouTubers, freelancers and entrepreneurs are active players in marketing and promoting of tourism in the province.

The sixth factor relates to development of transport and communications. The motorways, fiber optic cables and rail network under CPEC and the facilities along the roads and rail lines is ready to provide comfortable journey for tourists. The seventh and last is about government policies; in 2019, Pakistan increased the availability of travel visas in a bid to increase tourism. The new program grants visas on arrival to travelers from 50 countries, including the United States. Citizens of other 175 countries can apply for visas on the internet. Previously, visas could only be obtained from Pakistani embassies abroad. Moreover, the government of Balochistan has issued licenses to the outsiders from wealthy and developed nations for wildlife hunting under specified laws and regulations.

Tourism is linked with the socio-economic development of the communities of the destinations. Tourism is also labour intensive with the main focus on small and micro businesses. In Balochistan, transport infrastructure under CPEC is ensuring accessibility to outskirts and hilly tourist spots. As far as domestic tourism is concerned, more people now possess motorcycles or cars which also play a significant role in domestic tourism in the province. For the marketing, it is all the way at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube where people share photographs and videos and entrepreneurs promote affordable packages, helps driving the tourism farther.

The presence of 1 and 2 star hotels and restaurants to sit and eat local foods provides economic benefits for the locals. Roadside malls, tiny shops with local artifacts serves as an employment opportunity for the locals of the area and also promote the local culture. Tourists stay in hotel or local homes on payment which has huge potential for the tourist accommodation companies like that of “Airbnb”. Tourists purchase handicrafts, visit mechanics and pay tolls that pay for roads that carry them across the country. The hospitality industry, transportation service and recreation services are industries that benefit and contribute directly to a growing tourism economy. Even agriculture benefits from tourism, as hotels and restaurants need a steady and large supply of fresh food and beverage for guests.

Construction and infrastructure also benefit from tourism investments as a thriving tourism economy boosts public and private investment in new construction in the form of office or retail space, bus station, roads, hospitals and bands. If entrepreneurs from Balochistan put their minds to make innovations in all the relevant sectors, it is indeed a great opportunity for the locals not only for employments but also for socio-economic development of all the divisions and districts of the province.

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The author belongs to Quetta, Balochistan. He is the winner of 'English Article' category of the Writing Contest held by VOB from June-July, 2019.

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