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By Tayyab Nisar Mir According to UNs Statement on Tourism, Employment and Culture in Pakistan, issued in 2001, If Pakistan is known at all in the world of tourism, it is because of the mountainous regions of the north; the four mountain ranges of the Hundukush, Pamir, Karakoram and the Himalaya form the densest concentration of high peaks in the world. But the most notable feature of Pakistans topography is the diversity of its landscape; from the coastal regions and the deserts of the south to the lush plains of the 2500 km long Indus river which courses through the country, rising in Tibet and emptying into the Arabian Sea. Historically and culturally, too, Pakistan offers far greater diversity for the tourist than is generally assumed. Although an Islamic country, the local culture is enriched with the influences and resources of over half a dozen ancient civilizations that have flourished here since the 4th Millennium BC. The historical and archeological sites of the Gandhara and Indus Valley civilizations, Moenjodaro, the Mughal Empire; these treasures are relatively unknown outside the country and are rich resources for the development of tourism in Pakistan. Tourism is now the worlds largest and most rapidly growing industry. There were 806 million tourists in the world in the 2005, of which South Asia welcomed some 8 million visitors, which is around 1% of total world tourist arrivals. Pakistan gets only just over 10% of South Asias share, which is 798,300 visitors in 2005 whereas tourism receipts were US$ 185 million. With such a large potential market to attract, Pakistan could benefit greatly by pursuing specific niche markets such as archaeology, culture, adventure, religious tourism where it can offer something distinct from its regional competitors. Tourism creates quality jobs. Globally, one in every ten jobs is generated directly or indirectly from tourism. It is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week industry, despite seasonal fluctuations. Tourism industry is labour intensive, with employment opportunities at all skill levels. It is a major exporter, with international visitors injecting foreign exchange directly into the economy. At the same time, it is considered as a catalyst for construction and manufacturing industry but it's so woven into the economy that its significance often goes unnoticed. It is composed of many different products and services. Tourism industry consists predominantly of small businesses, despite growing investment by larger companies. It relies on minimal direct financial assistance from or regulation by government. It is a decentralized industry capable of diversifying regional economies. Compared to other industries, there are relatively few barriers to entry in this industry. It is a relatively low pollutant, which, if properly managed, can contribute to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage. It is

an important medium for educational and cultural exchange, promoting international understanding and goodwill. Therefore, there is a pressing need for a re-evaluation of the perceived importance of the tourism sector in Pakistan. International tourism is an export the only difference being that Pakistans goods and services (i.e., tourist attractions and services) are bought within the country. The tourism receipts formed 1.3% of Pakistans total export earnings and tourisms share in Pakistans GDP is only 0.2%. Tourism can play a fundamental role in reduction of poverty, creation of job opportunities and bringing social harmony in Pakistan. It can contribute to social and economic development of rural area of Pakistan where most poor people live. Tourism is the only industry, which, directly or indirectly, involves a wide range of stakeholders. Starting from the tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers, transporters, tourist guides, drivers, food suppliers, equipment manufacturers and ending at taxi drivers and porters, it can bring employment and economic benefit for everybody. The impact of international tourist spending is spread widely through the economy, encompassing accommodation, meals, local transport, entertainment and retail shopping. Domestic tourism also makes a considerable contribution to the economy and brings harmony among people. For Pakistanis, traveling within the country helps to inspire a national identity, and is ideally encouraged in children through family and school trips to promote a greater awareness of the countrys varied geography, society and culture. The government also earns directly from tourism through taxes (such as the 15% sales tax on virtually all items consumed or purchased by the tourist), trekking fee, mountain climbing royalty and license fee for hotels, restaurants, travel agents, tour operators, rent-a-car services etc. Tourism is labour-intensive and provides an ideal mechanism for increasing employment in the service sector. The principal employers are hotels and the larger hotels create more employment opportunities relating to services offered, such as pools, fitness centers, shops and restaurants. In up-market hotels, the staff to room ratio varies between 1 staff to 1 room and 2.5 staff to 1 room. The estimated overall employment in tourism sector was over 600,000 in 2005. There is a growing gap between existing first class hotel accommodation and the requirement/demand particularly in Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi/Islamabad, Swat and Kaghan Valleys and the Northern Areas. Private sector investors should fill this gap thus bringing a multi-dimensional, positive impact on the economy of these areas. Here the question arises that how we can convert tourism industry into a driving force, which can alleviate poverty, create jobs and bring social harmony in

Pakistan? How can we create and divert all these economic and social benefits towards the poor masses of Pakistan? The answer is not difficult but its implementation is! There are a number of initiatives to be taken by both the public sector and the private sector. We all know that tourism is the only industry, which is heavily dependent on other economic, administrative and social factors. Security, law and order situation, economic policies and social behaviours of a country directly affect tourism activity in that country. Therefore, a close coordination between all government departments looking after these aspects is very vital if we really are serious to develop and promote tourism in Pakistan. Whatever moves the PTDC, Ministry of Tourism or even the provincial tourism organizations would take towards promotion of tourism, all other players should be taken into confidence. This can also be done through re-activating the National Tourism Council (NTC) with an extended list of members. An active NTC is the right answer to the current lack of coordination among different stakeholders and relatively lower priority status enjoyed by the tourism sector in Pakistan. As National Tourism Organization (NTO), PTDC and the Ministry of Tourism has to create the will, awareness and understanding among the policy makers at government level that promotion and development of tourism can become a remedy to most of our economic and social problems. This message may be communicated consistently and persistently. Only then we can make some progress in tourism sector. The decision-makers at these channels may be invited and involved in all tourism-related events and projects. Success of any marketing or development plan for tourism lies in the community participation and interaction of local stakeholders. The district/division level Tourism Advisory Committees (TACs) set-up some years ago was excellent institution for community participation in tourism development activities. These TACs also need to be re-activated on a national level, in line with the present governments policy of poverty alleviation and devolution of power. This time, TACs can play a wider role, i.e., sustainable tourism development, poverty alleviation alongwith preservation of local culture, heritage, environment, wildlife and promotion of eco-tourism. International donor organizations like UNDP, CIDA, AKRSP, JAICA etc. would be too willing to sponsor any such project which is based on community participation, eco-tourism, sustainable tourism development, wildlife preservation, mountain clean-up operations, community environment & tourism awareness programmes and developing a tourism friendly curriculum for primary education level. A number of NGOs like the Adventure Foundation of Pakistan, Alpine Club of Pakistan and WWF etc. can be on the forefront with the National and Provincial Tourism Organizations providing the necessary support and infrastructure.

On marketing front, as National Tourism Organization, (PTDC) may findout other sources of funding, rather than wholly relying on diminishing government grants. There are examples of marketing activities, which are being sponsored mostly by the private sector. The Hong Kong Tourist Associations most of marketing projects are being financed by the private sector or by generating their own source of income from sale of handicrafts, souvenirs, view cards, publications, commissions from booking of transport, tours, hotels railway tickets and similar tourism services. Similarly, PTDC, in cooperation with the private sector, can embark on a similar marketing campaign. On development side, PTDC, may now resolve to undertake new projects on self-financing basis or by inviting private sector for investment. With an extensive network of 36 motels and a number of restaurants/road-side facilities, PTDC has now a supportive base ideal for self financing and it may stop looking towards government to finance its development activities. To sum up, I would say that as recommended by the World Tourism Organization, tourism should be developed as a contributor to the national objective, such as the alleviation of poverty, the creation of employment, the increase of foreign exchange and foreign and domestic investment, and the preservation of Pakistans cultural heritage and ecological environment. It is clear that the government is already cognizant of the importance of the involvement of the private sector in future policy direction. Tourism is a commercial sector and needs intensive promotional and marketing activities. While government must continue to take responsibility for the underpinning policy, for providing the legal and regulatory framework and the basic physical infrastructure such as roads, airports, power, communications, water and sanitation, the private sector should be given increasingly key role.