Pakistan is blessed with picturesque natural beauty, centuries worth of culture and heritage, modern attractions, and endless potential for adventure sports of all kinds; in short, it offers something for everyone — a place where one can live their own adventure. With so much to offer, Pakistan has rightfully earned to top slots on various lists of the most travel-worthy destinations. The government’s policies to promote this sector have borne fruit and Pakistan has moved up six places on the International Travel and Tourism Development Index as per the latest report released by World Economic Forum.
Many countries that have much less to offer, sustain their economies primarily on tourism, whereas Pakistan has not yet been able to utilize its potential in the tourism sector that remains largely uncommercialized even though a boost in the tourism sector and resultant dividends can immensely help the national economy, and the local communities, particularly in the dire economic straits we find ourselves in at the moment.
What needs to be done is to improve the experience that Pakistan can give its guests; improvements have to be made in the quality of not only the available infrastructure, services, ease of access, etc., for tourists but the local tourism entrepreneurs also have to be facilitated to manage their businesses so that they could give a better experience to the tourists. Moreover, since this is the digital age, digital platforms, particularly social media, should be utilized more effectively to show the world what pleasure awaits them as well as the fact that Pakistan is a completely safe destination for any traveller, irrespective of nationality or gender.
Whether tourists are local or international, tourism helps create an undeniably positive impact on host communities. Despite the fact that Pakistan attracts a lot of international tourists, we still rely heavily on the local tourists for the revenue that the tourism industry can generate. However, local tourism predominantly swings towards families or all-male groups. This leaves out a big chunk of potential tourists, i.e., women, who want to travel solo, with their female friends, or who do not have a male member of family to travel with. Pakistan is generally a safe place for women to travel on their own and recent years have seen an increase in female traveling groups but there are still certain measures that need to be taken in order to remove the hurdles for females traveling on their own (and even with families). The relative absence of travel companies that target female travellers providing them secure travel arrangements, accommodation, and guided tours, etc., needs to be addressed, as well as the provision of more infrastructure and facilities along the routes to travel destinations. More vigilant and easily accessible security apparatus is also needed for the reassurance of women and their families when it comes to their traveling on their own.
Tourism has a big part to play in helping local economies. Whether or not the tourism-related businesses are owned by locals, their presence has major impact on the uplift of locals, especially due to the creation of employment opportunities. Tourism has a profound effect on poverty alleviation and in helping the local communities become self-sustaining. Tourism strengthens a community’s retail base. Communities that sell to tourists have significantly more retail establishments and diverse mix of products and services. Thus, virtually any type of business is able to benefit from local tourism. Tourism offers a consistent flow of income into a region, which can be relied upon by small businesses. Growth of small businesses and creating jobs (specifically by and for women) are some of the biggest advantages of tourism, as this encourages small and niche businesses to grow and hire locally. This, also, has a ripple effect on local suppliers, as they cater to the needs of the guests and customers. Women can greatly benefit from tourism by bringing in more income to their families and raising their living standards as well as providing more opportunities for education of their children.
Tapping into the potential of the tourism sector can be a win-win for everyone involved, but to do this the existing model of tourism in the country has to evolve and become more inclusive and facilitative for almost half the population of Pakistan, on both ends of the spectrum — traveller and business. HH
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