Pakistan has a Huge Potential to Develop Tourism
Pakistan was rated The Best Holiday Destination and the third highest Potential adventure destination in the world for 2020 by Chinese high-end travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler. In 2019,the Forbes and The World Economic Forum's Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report termed Pakistan as one of the ‘coolest places’ to visit and in the one of global destinations for its World Heritage sites.
Pakistan holds diversified types of tourism resources, unique natural scenes and rich historical and cultural heritages, which makes the country has unlimited potential to develop tourism industry. From the snowcapped Himalayas to the sunny beaches of the Arabian Sea, Pakistan has rich and colorful natural landscapes, integrating spread of tourism resources, snow mountains, forests, canyons, lakes, beaches etc. in one country.
As the cradle of Buddhist culture, the history of Pakistan can be traced back to ancient India 5,000 years ago. Buddhism was introduced to Gandhara in the 3rd century B.C. (now northwest Pakistan) and then flourished for 800 years. Later, after more than three centuries of dynastic change, Islam became the state religion until today.
Pakistan enjoys 6 UNESCO world cultural heritages, including Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol，Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore, Rohtas Fort,Taxila, Historical Monuments at Makli，Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro. In addition, the famous Badshahi Mosque and King Faisal Mosque, which is the sixth largest mosque in the world, etc. attract tourists from all over the world.
In recent years, the government of Pakistan has made efforts to develop tourism industry, improving tourism service infrastructures, conserving and salvaging cultural relics and launching visa-free policies to Chinese tourists since Prime minister Imran Khan took office in 2018. “Pakistan has huge tourism potential. We will promote tourism to boost the economy”， emphasized Imran Khan in his first televised speech to the whole country. In 2017, the number of foreign tourists was 2.5 million, and two years later, it soared to 3.5 million in 2019. The United Kingdom is biggest source of tourists for Pakistan, followed by the United States, India and China.
Pakistan has great attraction to the Chinese tourists. In the minds of the Chinese people, Pakistan is somewhat distant but not far away. It is such a cultural and physical distance that make the Pakistani people and the Chinese people have great attraction to each other. According to Hofstede's cultural distance theory, the difference between China and Pakistan is 1.288. Research shows that cultural distance presents a "U" curve change in terms of the attraction to Chinese tourists, that is, the attraction will firstly rise with increase of cultural distance, then decrease with increase of distance after reaching the peak. Although Pakistan is a typical Muslim country, its Buddhist tourism resources and the "all-weather" relationship with China generate an appropriate cultural distance between the two countries.
With regard to the development of tourism in Pakistan, some specific suggestions to Pakistani friends as following:
First, based on Butler Destination Life Cycle theory, Pakistan is at the involvement stage. At this stage, adventure tourism is more attractive to foreign tourists. They are keen on unusual places and enjoy the experience of arriving the destinations before mass tourism. Based on this analysis, Pakistan should do a good job in market segmentation, and first attract Chinese adventure tourists.
Second, COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in South Asia, which has a fatal impact on tourism. Therefore, the government of Pakistan should take resolute and effective measures to stop the further spread of the epidemic.
Third, in recent years, the security situation in Pakistan has gradually improved. The Pakistani government should further improve the security situation, and in particular, Pakistan need to further strengthen the safety protection of the Chinese projects and personnel, so as to give foreign tourists a sense of security.
Fourth, generally speaking, there is a lack tourism professionals in South Asian countries, who are familiar with Chinese tourists' consumption preferences, so relevant departments in Pakistan should strengthen the cultivation of talents in this field.
According to World Travel and Tourism Council statistics, in 2019, tourism industry contributed 5.9% to Pakistan GDP, created 3.9 million jobs. If Pakistan`s tourism industry is developed to the level of China, its contribution to GDP will increase by 5% to 11% and 2.37 million more jobs will be added.