Tarnishing the county’s image

Editorial Aug, 18 2022
Tarnishing the county’s image
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It is very unfortunate that instead of exploring the potential of tourism in the country, we are shying away foreign tourists from our picnic resorts by not providing them due security and facilities the Shakarparian Hills incident where four men harassed for harassed foreign women at a park on Independence Day is case in point.

Though the accused have been arrested but the thing is that why such an incident took place and why adequate security arrangements were missing for the foreign tourists. The video of the incident which circulated on social media shows that our male-dominated society can go to any extent to harass women.

Same day another incident of this kind took place in Lakki Marwat Park in KP province, where a man was arrested for harassing a group of women on the occasion of the Independence Day. A video which went viral on YouTube showed a man harassing women and hurling abuses on them in the park, threatening them to leave the park. Such incidents can damage the entire tourism sector and can tarnish our image at international level due which no foreign tourists will visit the country and we will lose the precious foreign exchange.

Tourism sector has great potential and recently, the Tourism Department authorities were quoted to have said that if developed on modern lines, this industry may contribute enormously to the national exchequer, in fact it can make for over 40 per cent to Gross Domestic Product. They quoted the example of Switzeland which earns around $80 billion annually from this sector which is more than double of what we earn from our total export of $25 billion in a year.  

In this way, it needs to be given extra attention, more than what we give to our export sector.  Though on the outset, yet these remarks may sound as exaggerated ones but the reality is that Pak tourism sector has great potential as recognized by the UN Tourism agency as well and has also featured in research articles pertaining to its scope for promotion in international tourism journals which have shed light on how it can be developed on modern lines and made feasible for the international visitors. In fact, Pakistan has been blessed with a variety of 'heavenly lands' in the north but we have failed to tap the potential of these spots which are full of natural beauty which surpass the beauty of Switzerland which is trumpeted to be an unmatched  tourists resort on earth for its scenic beauty. Not only our norther areas have marvelous natural resorts, the areas covered by the scenic beauty also surpass the area of Switzerland. According to one estimate, Switzerland is half of our northern areas in size and also less beautiful than some 'heavenly lands' and the stunning mountains outlooks in our north. 

The previous government of PTI also used to speak highly of the country's tourism sector and they also made some progress but due to their confused policies on this front they could not make a real headway, which is need of the hour. It may be recalled here that even the Forbes Magazine has described Pakistan's scenic landscape as "one of the coolest places on earth to visit", while the British Backpacker Society also listed Pakistan as its top travel destination for 2018, but the then government failed to capitalize on these international sentiments and momentum and soon the narrative slowed down.   Not far ago, the UK travel magazine titled Wanderlust, put Pakistan on top of "hot list destinations" for 2020 but then again the momentum could not be built as corona pandemic pushed everything in the background. Besides, pandemic, the security issues have also kept the tourists at bay from visiting Pakistan and though the situation has much improved but there is still more to be done to make the country as preferred tourists spot by the international visitors, who attach great importantce to safety measures. It is high time, both the federal and the provincial governments should form a joint strategy marked by tremendous determination to uplift the road infrastructure and enhance the hospitality sector with main focus on security of the tourists besides making the visa procedures for visitors as simple and snag free with special emphasis on the safety and security factor and also ensuring the visitors  health and hygiene factor as without ensuring such steps, visitors will think twice before embarking on visit to any place on the earth.  In fact, the importance and potential of this sector can be gauged form the recent boon in tourists activities across the country in the post-pandemic situation and going by the 'current boon' one is sure that this sector is heading in the right direction.

Pakistan progress on this long-neglected sector can also be gauged from  big stride by Pakistan on the International Travel and Tourism Development Index where it has gone up by six places.  This Index which is prepared by the World Economic Forum every year and which was titled , "Rebuilding  for a sustainable and resilient future", allocated Pakistan an improved ranking of having placed it at 83rd place out of the list of as many as 117 countries.  In fact, Tourism is the only sector which has progressed amid these critical times when the nation is faced with extreme economic challenges on almost all fronts and the economic indicators are going nosedive.  However, this sector needs a several-pronged approach to be revamped, i.e., preservation of nature and ecology along with steps aimed at increasing potential of this sector by enhancing the capacity of the hospitality , the road infrastructures, the free movement of tourists through improved security steps etc. This goal can be achieved through public-private partnership, which is need of the hour.  Whether it is Kaghan or Naran valleys,  Jheel Saiful Muluk, Malam Jhabba, Malakand Division or scenic Chital valley,  the roads infrastructure should be built on priority level as there is enough room for improvement. Most of these roads remain closed for months during winter due to snowfall and when opened there is an extreme rush of traffic as tourists wait for opening of these roads to visit these scene resorts and hence a hustle-free movement is not possible. Sometime the Gilgit-Baltistan and snowy hills like Khanjrab Pass are totally cut off from the rest of country due to heavy snow in winter. 

Published in The Daily National Courier, August, 18 2022

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NC Desk
NC Desk https://www.dailynationalcourier.com/author/nc-desk
Daily National Courier is a leading morning English newspaper of twelve pages covering all international and national political developments on 24/7 basis.

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