Islamabad, Pakistan: “Domestic tourism is flourishing in Pakistan but without any proper planning and sustainability, resulting degradation of fragile lands in northern areas of Pakistan”.
This was said by participants while speaking at a special show broadcast by state run television Pakistan Television (PTV) in connection with World Tourism Day. One of the most popular talk show of PTV— Chotha Satoon hosted by Jawad Faizi invited Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Raja Farooq Haider Khan, Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman, international mountaineer Mirza Ali Baig and tourism expert and former Consultant to Tourism for Government of Pakistan Agha Iqrar Haroon.
Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Raja Farooq Haider Khan informed participants that Neelum Valley Tourism project is underway while Mangla Lake would also be made another tourism product in Azad Kashmir. He stated that target market for tourism development in Azad Kashmir includes foreign tourists as well as domestic tourists. He added that over 1.6 million domestic tourists visited Azad Kashmir during summer season.
Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Raja Farooq Haider Khan was of the view that he is trying to develop mountain economy through developing tourism. He informed participants that his government is working on development a “Tourism Corridor” stretching over 192 Km in Azad Kashmir.
Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman informed participants that a all-weather Gilgit-Skardu Road is being built with an estimated cost of 35 billion Pakistani rupess while work is underway to enhance heavy traffic on Karakuram Highway with an estimated cost of Rs.100 billion.
He stated that over two million tourists visited Gilgit-Baltistan during summer season. He accepted that solid waste management and deforestation are two sensitive issues of fragile lands of Gilgit-Baltistan as domestic tourism is increasing every year. He stated that disbanding of former Federal Ministry of Tourism had negative impact to sell Pakistan as destination at international market and participation of Pakistan at international tourism forum has decreased since disbanding of former federal Ministry of Tourism under 18th amendment in Constitution of Pakistan.
Following points were also highlighted by tourism experts:
- Disbanding of Federal Ministry of Tourism under 18th amendment caused irreparable dent to tourism industry of Pakistan because there is no focal body left to promote country at international tourism horizon.
- Mega infrastructure development projects are underway in Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir for providing better connectivity among tourism destinations including long-awaited Gilgit-Skardu road.
- Domestic tourism attracts demands of accommodations and over one hundred motels are being built in Gilgit-Baltistan every year to cater increasing demands of domestic tourism.
- There is no focal tourism body in Pakistan that plans to attract foreign tourists to Pakistan after disbanding of former federal Ministry of Tourism and provinces are interested to get share out of domestic tourism instead of working for attracting foreign exchange through tourism.
- Pakistan is land of diversity and offers exceptional products to foreign tourists but attention is not paid to develop winter tourism. Pakistan is standing far behind comparing to other countries for providing four-season tourism and concentrate only on summer tourism and extreme tourism.