On January 29th, the Federal government announced its plans to increase the country’s tourism revenue. The Information Minister, Fawad Chaudhary, said that salient features of the new visa policy include the granting of visa on arrival to travellers from 50 countries and, E-visa services to those from 175 countries. He added that the government will also be making it easier for foreign students and journalists to travel.
In a recent meeting with the newly formed Tourism Task Force, Prime Minister Imran Khan called for suggestions to identify and resolve any tourism related problems. The present government has shown signs that it wants to restore the influx of tourists into the country to its former glory.
According to a 2018 report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, in 2017, Tourism and Travel made up 21.2% of the global GDP. This percentage is predicted to rise to 28.2% in 2028.
Not many people outside Balochistan can tell you about the various tourism opportunities in the province. Rampant terrorism and the poor state of law and order in region in the last decade has adversely affected its projected image locally and globally. It has also contributed to dwindling tourism in the area.
In 2018, the Provincial Tourism Department of Balochistan said that efforts were being made to promote tourism in Balochistan. They said that they have initiated projects to develop and improve tourist facilities, hotels, rest-houses and information centers in the region. They are also developing commercial projects as well as planning to arrange tourism packages, culture shows and festivals etc. to attract travellers to various parts of the province.
In the last year, we have seen a greater presence of the region in mainstream and social media through commercial media projects such as Eva Travels Pakistan with Jazz. These projects have helped dispel some of the myths about the region by showcasing its abundant scenic beauty as well as the rich culture that many are unaware of.
According to the UN World Tourism Organization promoting tourism contributes to sustainable development while reducing poverty and increasing employment. The report by World Travel and Tourism Council states that Travel and tourism made up around 10% of the total employment opportunities in the world in 2017 and this value is forecasted to increase by around 12% by 2028.
Therefore, developing the tourism industry in Balochistan could help improve upon the overall state of the province and its population as well. This could be done through the organization of culture shows, festival and other cultural events that would attract tourists to the area. Opportunities such as these create jobs and add to the economic growth, all while creating jobs for the local population.
An example of such an event is the Global Village held every year from November to April in Dubai, UAE. According to news reports, the festival attracted more than 6 million visitors from all over the world in 2018. The festival made over 22 Billion Dirhams (~$6 Billion) in business transactions and employed around 10,000 in manpower.
Another way to promote tourism is to create a brand for the region. A recent case for this is KP Tourism. A case study carried out by the Pakistan Travel Forum states that one of the strategies used by the provincial government is to make KPK a brand in itself. In addition to this, they improved upon the tourism infrastructure including rest areas, hotels, resorts and, information centers. They further developed communication infrastructure, for example the Swat motorway. Policy changes such as the elimination of NOCs for foreigners looking to travel in the area were also introduced.
The KPK tourism model is an extremely simple one to replicate, albeit at a much bigger scale in Balochistan. Development of highways connecting previously remote parts of the region as well as that of rest houses and other tourism facilities is already underway. According to news reports, the 63% increase in foreign and local tourism in KPK (in 3 years) has also helped improve the security conditions in the area. Another case for increased economic growth through tourism is that of Thailand, where travel and tourism made up to 19% of the total GDP in 2018.
Travel and tourism is an extremely lucrative industry. It has the potential to contribute immensely to the economic and social growth of the country as well as improve the state of its security. Recent media attention as well as rapid development of infrastructure present us with an opportunity to promote tourism in Balochistan which would increase employment opportunities for the local population, help alleviate poverty, and, encourage economic growth. It would also stimulate social growth through interaction and mobilization, which at present, is a significant need of the region.