R. Raheem Sherazi
Tourism is the only industry, where everyone wants to be part of it, to explore the rich culture, ancient cities like Moenjodaro, Harappa, mountains like K-2, Nanga Parbat, river like, Indus River, desert like Cholistan, ethnicity or ritual like Kelash valley etc. Pakistan is a country which is famous for its beauty and geographical structure with multiple rich-cultural history. The history of the country is very interesting, starts from the far then East Indian Company to British colonial and then [Sub-Continent] Pakistan. Imitators start sketching through their own way, painting, poetry and travelers by writing the single moments of the journey.
In the early 19th century, some travellers and explorers like Marcopolo, Eric Shipton, Schomberg and Telman has discovered mostly the adventurous areas in the world. When Schomberg was on his visit to Pakistan [Sub-Continent] early 1940, he used the most dangerous way, which was unbelievable with the local guides and assistants. But there were merely few explorers who were devoted to move and find some news valleys with habitants and culture. After the completion of his [Schomberg] book” The Unknown Karakorum”, the people start reading about the areas of Pakistan and sub-continent.
After the separation Pakistan became an independent State. Most of the people from America and Europe start visiting our areas with zeal and zest. Most of the tourists have discovered the area with potential of rich culture, which invites the travelers to come and add some uniqueness memories the travel diary. But at that time mostly the tourists were not demanding to live in a posh hotel or camp sites. Gradually when the trend of international and domestic tourist flourished the demand of the tourist also increased. With the passage of time, quality service with the fragrance of hospitality touch became mandatory.
Hospitality starts from greetings, personal interaction, welcome tea or drink, inquiring about their journey and anticipation of the guest’s need, which attract more guest and tourist to visit. Resorts, camp site with fully equipped accommodation, well maintained trails and easy excess to the valleys where any one wish to go with their family. As unemployment is increasing day by day, we need to train women in the tourism industry to work with crew [Guide, Cook, Climber instructor]. The unique addition of female professional would be encouraging for the industry.
The tourism, especially the international tourism has been affected by the 9/11 incident. Before the incident, Gilgit-Baltistan, Chitral and Swat Valley were famous for international tourists. Local people were mostly running the small business like, transportation, hotel services, restaurant and local guiding to earn and feed their children. In the last few years the domestic tourism have got a productive exposure to visit and replaced the area with international tourists.
The hotels were full from Naran to Khunjerab Sost and other 14 spots as well. This is the time to focus not only on the domestic tourism but also encourage the international tourism as well. How that can be more easy jump into the international market to divert the flow of tourism to Pakistan as most of the developed countries are eager to visit Asian, African and Middle East. In the report of A World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) tourism contribute in the economy at Rs2.03 trillion ($19.4 billion)-6.9pc of the Gross Domestic Production (GDP). By Blumberg Estimation, foreign visitor’s spending is 7.4%, while domestic spending is 92.6% as per Pakistan Travel Development Corporation (PTDC).
Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral in Pakistan has a great potential to attract the international tourism. But that need a well-planned policy and investment to develop the area for international standard. Like there is not a single hotel to accommodate the tourists in the area.
At least five-star hotels with 300 rooms each in every district will help accommodate the flow of domestic and international tourists. As the domestic tourism has increased in 2017, from 5.3pc, Rs1.24 trillion jumped to 5.6pc. Hospitality mostly starts to catch the attraction of the people who are willing to visit. That had already been started when there was a traditional trend to accommodate tourists in their houses and providing them space to pitch tents which made the people more curious to come and meet those people who are hospitable. Meanwhile the trend has been changed and everyone wants to be with their family to stay and avail the service of traditional food.
“Kha Basi” is one of the famous spot for tourists who are enjoying the local food and services of the professional team of women. The staff is well trained with hospitality profession. The industry can be flourished, if the government implements the mechanism to welcome foreigners to Pakistan. They tourists will not only visit the area but also represent Pakistani culture in other countries as well which will help the economy to grow and resource to utilize in productive way.
It’s pertinent that the government should take quick action and allocate a special budget to facilitate the tourism industries which is the only option to create employment and develop the economy of the mountainous area in particular and the rest of the country in general. This is the only sector which can be promoted as an industry for a sustainable development. Pakistani tourism should be an international brand.
The writer is a development practitioner, based in Islamabad, working with an INGO. He writes for different blogs, especially for economic development and tourism. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org