PAKISTAN has beauty so wonderful, varied and unique — snow-capped lofty mountain peaks that attract mountaineers from around the world, exotic wildlife, picturesque lakes, valleys, and even heritage monuments and ruins of ancient civilisations thousands of years old — but the country’s potential as a tourist destination has never been fully optimised.
Although we see some foreign tourists and mountaineers in the country, we are yet to exploit the real potential that Pakistan has. Boosting the tourism sector could be a wise step, especially when we have been going through one economic crisis or the other for the last four years.
To attract larger number of foreign tourists and put the sector on the right track, we need to take a few initiatives. The most important one is the image of Pakistan in the eyes of the world. There are many case studies that tell us how to do it. We can highlight the country and its achievements in art and culture, creating a soft image of the country. A case in point is Ms Marvel, a six-episode series that has attracted the attention of the young across the world, including the West. All we need is to cash in on such events just like India does.
We need to promote our art, culture, literature, sports, products and talented people through massive advertisement and public relation campaigns. When you ask a foreigner about India, they usually come up with things like dance, yoga and Bollywood; that is an image India has coined for the world, hiding its many unsavoury realities.
But, when asked about Pakistan, people talk about terrorism and security issues. That is what needs to change, and it can be changed if we promote ourselves the way India does despite all that is there that could be embarrassing for it.
Pakistan fails to showcase things like its hospitality, culture, people and several products that are second to none and a source of pride. The countries, especially the emerging economies from the developing world, run special campaigns to showcase what they have on offer for foreign tourists. It is the promotion that counts.
Unfortunately, Pakistan does nothing to show the soft image and wonders that carry an attraction for foreign tourists. All it gains is negative publicity through dirty politics, turmoils and economic meltdown in the international media.
Another way to bring more people to Pakistan would be to target nearby countries, as we realise every tourist counts, for they bring in the much needed foreign currency that boosts our reserves. Then there are countries like Malaysia, China and the Central Asian Republics (CARs) that can be targeted. Once we succeed in attracting foreign tourists, it will have a snowball effect and we will see a greater influx of foreigners in the years to come.
We can and should start by focussing on promoting our strengths. This is a project that would require some effort, time and sweat by leaders across the political divide. For a nation struggling so badly, this is a must. A narrative must be sold, our image must be created, and, for that, we only need focussed and sustained efforts.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2022