Editorial : Damaged tourism - Monday, March 21, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/21/damaged-tourism.html

THE tourism chief put it very mildly when he said that terrorism has “damaged” Pakistan’s tourist industry. Talking to reporters at Taxila some days ago, the managing director of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation estimated losses from the decline in tourism at Rs550bn, though the period these statistics covered was not specified. While it is true that terrorism has done incalculable harm to all sectors of Pakistan’s economy, the tourism industry has never been anywhere near its potential in terms of the breathtaking beauty of the country’s north. The first blow to tourism came from the cataclysmic events of the late 1970s. Until then, western tourists used to take the land route, crossing from Europe into Turkey, enjoying sites in Iran and entering Pakistan through the Khyber Pass, going on to Lahore and then sailing along the Grand Trunk Road en route to India. The revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan cut off this route to middle-class western tourists, who formed the bulk of foreign visitors. Tourists still came, but in a trickle — by air. The 9/11 trauma, the kidnapping and murder of foreigners, and the vicious rise in terrorism dealt a death blow to tourism. Even domestic tourism suffered when the rebels occupied Swat. The army later evicted the terrorists, but home tourists still keep away from it.
The hotels and motels destroyed in last year’s floods and the consequent damage to roads and bridges will take time to rebuild and rectify. But the hurdles in the way of a flourishing tourist industry are of a political nature, and there is little the tourism officials can do. What the PTDC can, however, do is to prepare itself for that good day when terrorism disappears and normality returns and focus on planning, with an emphasis on low-cost transport and lodgings.

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