Tourist traffic witnesses sharp increase in five years

Updated September 30, 2019

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Tourist traffic at cultural sites in Pakistan has seen a massive increase of 317 per cent over the past five years with Punjab’s contribution being nearly 95pc, according to a report. — AP/File
Tourist traffic at cultural sites in Pakistan has seen a massive increase of 317 per cent over the past five years with Punjab’s contribution being nearly 95pc, according to a report. — AP/File

ISLAMABAD: Tourist traffic at cultural sites in Pakistan has seen a massive increase of 317 per cent over the past five years with Punjab’s contribution being nearly 95pc, according to a report.

The report Cultural Heritage and Museum Visits in Pakistan by Gallup Pakistan, a research organisation affiliated with Gallup International Association, indicates that tourism could be a potential game changer that could revitalise the struggling economy of the country.

According to data presented in the report, available with Dawn, tourism at cultural sites has experienced a massive increase since 2014. From approximately 1.6 million visits in 2014, the tourist traffic at cultural sites rose to 6.6m visits in 2018, a 317 per cent increase in a span of five years. Punjab, as the largest and most populated province, contributed approximately 95pc whereas tourist traffic in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa fluctuated over the years.

A Gallup Pakistan report indicates that tourism could be a potential game changer for country’s struggling economy

The tourist traffic at museum sites increased by approximately 50pc with the number of visits increasing from 1.7m in 2014 to around 2.7m in 2018. The tourist traffic in KP and Balochistan has also experienced a similar trend at its museum sites, whereas in Punjab and Sindh, the number of visits at museum sites fluctuated over the years. But overall, the provinces recorded maximum number of visits in 2018.

Total visits by foreigners increased by more than two folds for both cultural and museum sites in Pakistan. Over the past five years the percentage of foreign visitors to museums rose by approximately 130pc whereas foreign visitors to cultural sites rose by 100pc. Museums remained more popular among foreign visitors by receiving on average 50pc more visits than cultural sites. The trend among all four provinces for total foreign visits saw a gradual increase, with the highest increase in KP where the number of museum visits in 2018 rose by 250pc.

The Pakistan Monument Museum in Islamabad, Khewra Mines Museum in Chakwal and Lok Virsa Heritage Museum in Islamabad were the top three most popular museums from 2016 to 2018, with Taxila and Lahore museums in fourth and fifth positions.

Speaking to Dawn, Bilal Ghani of Gallup Pakistan said, “We have observed 15 to 20pc increase in local and foreign visitors. Interest in museums is continuously increasing,” adding that the report was based on number of visits by local and foreign visitors to cultural and museum sites maintained by federal and provincial governments.

The report states that the Shahi Qila in Lahore was the most popular cultural site. The Shalimar Garden, Lahore, was the second most popular site in 2016 and 2018, and the Hiran Minar in Sheikhupura was the second most visited site in 2017. The third most popular site in 2016 was Jehangir’s tomb, Lahore. In 2017 it was the ancient Buddhist monastic complex Takht-i-Bahi in Mardan that was the most visited and in 2018 it was the Hiran Minar.

Among foreigners the Lahore Museum was the most popular in 2016 and 2017. But, in 2018 Taxila Museum was most visited. From 2016 to 2018, Taxila was the most liked cultural site for foreign tourists. The Shahi Qila was the second most well-liked site. The third most visited site by foreigners in 2016 was Moenjodaro, Larkana, Jehangir’s Tomb in 2017 and the Shalimar Garden in 2018.

“There is room for further improvements. With some more efforts both local and foreigner visitors can be increased substantially,” said Mr Ghani of Gallup Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2019