As terrorism recedes in Pakistan, tourism appears to be on the rise, with more than thrice the number of international tourists travelling to the country in 2016 as compared to just three years ago, Bloomberg reported.
Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) data showed that international tourists have more than tripled since 2013 to 1.75 million in 2016, while domestic travellers have jumped 30 per cent to 38.3m, the report said.
A World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) report titled "Travel and Tourism Economic Impact 2017" cited by Bloomberg estimated tourism's contribution to the economy at Rs2.03 trillion ($19.4 billion) ─ 6.9pc of the Gross Domestic Produce (GDP).
This WTTC forecasted this contribution to rise 6pc this year, and to exhibit a 5.8pc per annum increase, reaching Rs3.8tr ($36.1bn) ─ 7.2pc of GDP ─ in 2027.
Domestic travel expenditure is expected to increase 5.3pc in 2017 to Rs1.24tr, and jump 5.6pc per annum to Rs2.13tr in 2027.
Visitor exports ─ spending by international tourists within Pakistan, excluding education expenditure ─ were Rs93.8bn in 2016, and are estimated to rise to Rs96.7bn this year, and to jump to Rs204bn by 2027.
Visitor exports have witnessed a steady decline since 2011, when they were around Rs125.9bn. This year is the first since 2011 that they are expected to rise again.
Tourism and travel's direct contribution to the GDP in 2016 ranks Pakistan at 47th place in a list of 185 countries in terms of absolute contribution, and 136th place in terms of relative contribution to the GDP.
The WTTC report also examined investment in the tourism sector.
It said investment in travel and tourism in the country was Rs375.2bn ─ or 9.3pc of total investment ─ in 2016, and is expected to rise by 8.1pc in 2017.
"It should rise by 8.1pc in 2017, and rise by 8pc per annum over the next 10 years to Rs872bn in 2027, 11.4pc of the total."
Approximately 4.8m people in Pakistan are estimated to be employed in the industry by 2027, the report said.
Pakistan's scenic beauty has historically attracted foreign and domestic travellers and tourists alike, but the country's image as a tourist spot was dented because of terrorism and militancy, particularly in the northern parts of the country ─ such as the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in Swat in 2012, and the 2014 Army Public School massacre.
With the military's operations in Swat, and North and South Waziristan, the northern areas have now become more secure. They are buzzing with construction, and local hotels and restaurants enjoy good business, Bloomberg reported.
The report, quoting figures by Jovago, a hotel booking website, said that bookings increased 80pc last year.
For foreigners, getting a Pakistani visa is an expensive and bureaucratic process, Bloomberg quoted researcher and writer Ayesha Siddiqa as saying.
PTDC Spokesman Mukhtar Ali said the government is considering expanding its visa-on-arrival service beyond the current 16 countries, but did not specify which ones, Bloomberg reported.
Pakistan improved its ranking in the 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index released earlier this year by the World Economic Forum. Local reports also suggest tourism is on the rise in the country.