Despite of the fragile economic growth, macroeconomic fluctuations and high unemployment, tourism sector in Pakistan has been resilient over the recent years but many unprecedented national and international tragedies caused an unaccounted loss to the tourism industry, and now there is a question mark on the future of tourism industry in Pakistan, especially after the recent barbaric killing of 10 foreign tourists at Nanga Parbat Base camp Gilgit.
Tourism industry has an important role in job creation at a time of extreme vulnerability and unemployment in many countries. This sector accounts for 9% of the global GDP, a total of US$6 trillion and it provides 120 million direct jobs and 125 million indirect jobs in related industries. This means that the industry now accounts for one in eleven jobs of the planet, this number could even rise to one in ten jobs by 2022, according to World Travel & Tourism Council.
The number of travelers have been increased consistently over the past year, despite of difficult economic climate and shrinking budget. The UNWTO reports that international tourist arrivals grew by 4 percent in 2012, and forecasts that it will continue to increase by 3 to 4 percent in 2013.
In Pakistan Tourism is served as engine of growth, because like exports it is a large source of earning foreign exchange and served as a mean of combating unemployment and enhancing business activates. Despite of its fragile economic and security conditions, earning from this sector increased from 590 million in 1996 to 828 million in 2005; according to the World Bank Data, which indicates a very slow growth. Overall, Pakistan today is a small player in global tourism industry as compared to the pre 9/11 period.
The total economic impact of 9/11 is realistically immeasurable; however the world travel and tourism council has estimated the decrease of the travel and tourism demand worldwide to be 10%. This equates to the job loss of 8.8 million people globally including airlines, hotels, tour operators, car rental and credit card companies, creating 1.7% decreased of total GDP for the world economy.
Like other countries of the world, Pakistan has also faced the same loss. Before 9/11, the number of tourist arrival to the Pakistan was 0.557 million and 0.50 million in 2000 and 2001 respectively. However this figure decreased to 0.498 million in 2002, which was after affect of attack on World Trade Centre. During this period revenue receipts from tourism industry in Pakistan decreased from 551 million to 533 million. During the expansion period of 2003-2006, flow of tourism towards Pakistan returned to its role of pacing employment growth by increase in flow of tourist arrivals to 0.898 million by contributing 919 million to country foreign reserves in 2006; but no longer again it suffered a harsher loss after war on terror started in 2007 in Pakistan, which brought down the number of tourist arrivals to .82 million in 2008. Due to this war on terror international tourists have diverted their way towards different countries of the world.
According to the recent rankings of travel and tourism competitive index 2013 Switzerland, Germany and Australia ranked first, second and third respectively while Pakistan is at 122nd in world and is at 24th in Asia Pacific region.
The recent killing of mountaineer’s maligned the image of Pakistan in international community, which will cause huge loss to Pakistan tourism industry in future. Therefore Pakistan government has to take steps to rebuild the trust otherwise this industry will be ruined, which will cause huge loss to the country in terms of decrease in foreign exchange reserves and unemployment of labor associated with this sector.
Pakistan being a developing country and rich in both natural and historical beauty has a great potential to have a thriving tourism industry. It would offer opportunities to the local people to engage themselves in the tourism industry and make living standards. Most importantly the flow of tourist in the country will assist the other economic sectors for a positive balance of trade.
In order to bust-up tourism in the country government of Pakistan should develop proper policy by empowering Tourism ministry, and considering all the stake holders at the bottom; including Indigenous bodies and Community Based Organizations (CBOs), to facilitate and making sure the security of tourists.
The writer is Researcher at Economic Growth Unit Sustainable Development Policy Institute Islamabad