Pakistan on track of becoming tourism’s next big thing

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Pakistan has the potential of becoming a new global tourism player, The Telegraph reported.

The publication states that the country was one of the highlights of the classic “hippie trail” and “overland” route from Europe to the Far East, a rite of passage for disillusioned Western youth. Peshawar and Lahore were considered not only safe — but also fine places to kick back for a few days in a budget hostel.

Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a new visa policy for 175 countries to promote tourism and investments in Pakistan.

The countries will get the facility of applying for an online visa, in which e-visa facility will initially be provided to five countries such as Turkey, China, Malaysia, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

Citizens of these countries will be able to apply for Pakistani visa via email at a fee cost of $8.

According to Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, around 1.7 million foreigners visited Pakistan in 2017 showing a remarkable increase in the ratio of tourists’ influx while domestic travellers jumped by 30 per cent.

Jane Westwood who runs Wild Frontiers, one of the few UK operators to offer tours of Pakistan, welcomed the changes.

“The old visa system was very convoluted,” she said. “Both travellers and tour operators needed to file numerous supporting documents and the whole process took two weeks or more — now it can be wrapped up in a matter of hours. It is also significantly cheaper, from £134 down to the equivalent of $60 [£46].”

Westwood also lauded the ease in the No Objection Certificate (NOC) system, under which travellers needed special permission to visit certain parts of Pakistan. “These have been scrapped for all but a few border regions, opening up parts of Kashmir, Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan.”

Pakistan, for its mesmerizing natural beauty and warm hospitality, has already been named the best travel destination of 2018 by the British Backpacker Society. ‘One of the friendliest countries on earth, with mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination,’ the backpackers state.

According to their list, “Pakistan is the clear winner of the British Backpacker Society’s top 20 adventure travel destinations 2018” to which they encourage keen travellers to book a trip now.

Discussing the security concern that lurks in the minds of many foreign tourists, Adam Sloper of the British Backpacker Society told Gulf News a piece of advice for travellers.

“Our advice would be to put preconceptions on the security situation in Pakistan to one side, and conduct some independent research. You should certainly review travel advisories from respective governments, but also speak to local Pakistanis about the situation.

“We believe that travel is at its best when it changes a visitor’s preconceptions, and few experiences achieve this more than travelling in Pakistan” Sloper implored.

Moreover, British Airways will restart flights in the country from June 2 from Heathrow to Islamabad, marking its first service to the country for a decade.