Tourism: A Vista of Opportunities for Our Ailing Economy

Imagine! What could have been our share had we captured only 5% of 20 billion US dollars? By the year 2020 the number of Chinese travelers is expected to grow up to 100 million generating 200 billion US dollars. If we could target just 5% of that Chinese market by 2020 it would mean 10 billion US dollars directly added to our economy from one country only. Above: Masood Ali Khan talking to ‘Wonders of Pakistan’ in his office




Masood Ali Khan


In 2001 around 10 million Chinese traveled all over the world spending 20 billion US dollars.

What could have been our share had we captured only 5% of 20 billion US dollars? By the year 2020 the number of Chinese travelers is expected to grow up to 100 million generating 200 billion US dollars. If we could target just 5% of that Chinese market by 2020 it would mean 10 billion US dollars directly added to our economy from one country only.

I have quoted the figures of China’s outbound tourism for the 2001. In later years this picture has changed drastically and number of Chinese tourists going abroad has increased by 300% (31miollion in 2005). By 2008 when almost every country faced an economic recession, number of China’s outbound tourists still  grew (as a  result of  high growth rate in its GDP which also strengthened the Chinese Yuan).

Taking  a cue from above, we have so many avenues to xplore, so many opportunities to avail – to generate revenue – all from tourism in Pakistan.


After China – Japan, Taiwan and South Korea in the Far East offer a potent market with largest number of outbound tourists. This too is a substantial market for Pakistan’s inbound tourism. Our Buddhist heritage (the Gandhara art) is an avenue where no wizardry is required. We only need to market our heritage sector properly to the Far Eastern travelers as many Buddhist shrines and relics feature prominently in their tours.

The advent of Islam in the early eighth century in the region yielded a new form of architecture that has the potential even today to attract people from all over the world. The Islamic architecture reflected in the pre-Mughal buildings and then the magnificent and the most popular Mughal heritage; all are gems of history which easily fascinate the tourist.


Pakistan is also very special because of its unique mountain scenery. Mountain climbing and trekking in Hunza, Karakorams, along the Silk Route and a trip to historic Khyber Pass is a treat in itself.
Mountaineering, however, is no more a growth product – it has reached its saturation point. There are hardly any peaks left now for the mountaineers to conquer. Trekking too is close to saturation. In order to capitalise, therefore, our mountains, our peaks, we need to go for innovation; to attract such tourists who may wish to view our beautiful mountain scenery, find relaxation in its tranquil environs and this would enable us sustain our mountain tourism even if international climbers cease to visit.


In archaeology, we have our great Indus Valley Civilization. The excavations at Mehrgarh, Moenjodaro and Harappa are unique experience for any traveler, a ‘Must Visit’ for a tourist who wants to know the origin of humanity. The human teeth found at Mehrgarh, drilled 7000 years ago by a dental surgeon; to relieve a person of the torture of pain is a testimony to the innovation of early man in Mehrgarh (the starting point of Indus Valley Civilisation) can also be an effective marketing tool to make people visit these places.

With all these feathers in our cap, where do we stand in the world of tourism?

Tourism statistics of the last decade show, our tourism is a market led industry and not supply driven. This means Pakistan is not encouraging increasing number of tourists to visit the land. Over the years our policy makers, have been making decisions based on outdated statistical information and miscalculated research findings coupled with misleading assumptions. As a result tourism has been misused and mismanaged over the last two decades. This has led to a gradual decline with respect to the public and private sectors and has also contributed to tourism not being taken seriously; excepting only those who are directly dependant on this sector for their livelihoods.

Otherwise too tourism assets have been downgraded, and left to depreciate. They have poor infrastructure and there are hardly any Minimum International Standards (MIS). Due to lack of marketing strategy and funds, Pakistan has no influence in the international marketplace; no new capacity development areas have been identified for the last 20 years for short or medium term strategy purposes. Government’s tourism budget is focused more on fixed expenditures (salaries and establishment) than on research, marketing and promotion.


There is mistrust among the two wings of the tourism sector i.e., public and the private sector; hence there is a dire need to establish closer liaison between the two. Tourism standards are not heartening in terms of ‘product’ and ‘human resource’. Sites known for cultural heritage; are not adequately protected and are in danger of being systematically plundered. Environment and ecology are at stake owing to lack of control and enforcement

For any tourism industry to flourish, there are primarily six core issues, which need to be reviewed, analyzed, researched, developed and implemented within the given time frame. The implementation process must be monitored strictly by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Culture Sports and Tourism and group of private stakeholders. This should be publicized and communicated to public as well:

1. Sustainable Tourism Policy and Management
2. Environment
3. Infrastructure
4. Human Resource Training and Development
5. Funding

Tourism is a tripartite sector and the stated policy is not only implementable but it has to be implemented. Government being responsible for the policy, public sector for implementation and private sector to ensure the results of the policy, fit perfectly into this preview and enhance the development as well as promotion of tourism as a viable sector; which will trigger a sound economic activity creating a range of benefits for the government as well as the people.

Establishment of an effective management structure by streamlining the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and setting up a statutory public-private sector partnership has become inevitable. Tourism is mainly a private sector industry, governments world wide are gradually divesting themselves of the commercial activities of tourism and responding mainly to the supportive responsibility of policy making, monitoring and regulatory standards.

In Pakistan, Tourism Industry’s ratio of fixed costs over marketing and promotion costs are unacceptably high and in view of the enormity of promotional responsibilities to market Pakistan tourism, the variable budget falls short to the point that what small amount of money is spent on promotion has no impact and can be deemed as a wasteful and negative expenditure. To secure its future, Pakistan must invest adequate funds towards tourism; by directing and mobilizing a realistic proportion of the revenues generated for industry support. If the marketing, monitoring, management and maintenance of tourism resources of Pakistan are not adequately funded, the country cannot compete in international tourism and achieve social and economic objectives.

The human resources of federal and provincial ministries have to be reoriented and trained on “International Minimum Standards” instead of only emphasizing on controls, permissions and licenses in hospitality industry, tours and travel, trekking and mountaineering.

Safe, comfortable means of transportation, development of roads, rest houses, sanitation and a secure, clean and healthy environment according to Minimum International Standards all provide the parameter to check and measure the performance of public and private sector in Tourism Industry.

[Masood Ali Khan is former Managing Director of the PTDC, Islamabad.]

Related Post:

Do We Understand Tourism? Asks the Industry Guru



Wonders of Pakistan supports freedom of expression and this commitment extends to our readers as well. Constraints however, apply in case of a violation of WoP Comments Policy. We also moderate hate speech, libel and gratuitous insults. 
We at Wonders of Pakistan use copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.


18 replies to “Tourism: A Vista of Opportunities for Our Ailing Economy

  1. I really enjoyed your excellent article. Tourism can and probably will drive the economies of many countries over the next 50 years.

    My concerns for this business in Pakistan from both a consumer and a professional point of view is the current perception of the country globally.

    Right or wrong, I expect pakistan doesn’t feature very high on the Anholt Nation Brand index (I know it’s symbolic at best but it is an indicator of perceptions). Until it does it won’t attract tourists no matter how much it spends on product development and marketing.

    1. @brandconsultantasia,

      You are right Sir, but the situations that have contributed to our country’s poor standing in the nation branding index and other indicators, are partly home driven and partly foreign.
      Domestically we have hardly ever endeavored seriously to come on a higher pedestal at the Anholt Nation Brand Index. And on the foreign side, this war on terror [which sometimes intermingles with our domestic policies; right or wrong, and sometimes moves independent of all] has put a good amount of pressures on our state fabric and governance, and this as you know affects almost every sphere of life in developing countries like us.

      Today as the whole country grapples with the mess we are in, we believe even with highly pessimistic scenarios being dished out, tourism in this country still stands all the chances to turn the shape of events here provided there is an end to this war on terror. I wouldn’t go into the why’s and how’s of this war, but once the war ends, Pakistan has all factors that can make it a tourists paradise.

  2. You have got bright and convincing ideas! Would that everyone concerned to this department or to the prosperity of this country understand how tourism can bring prosperity to our country.
    Your work can help many of us to understand about the benefits of this sector for the country and for the poor and it will keep helping many more in the future. Please keep writing, you will definitely be rewarded.
    God bless you!
    M. Alam

    1. Thanks Manzoor Alam for appreciating our efforts. Its our conviction that in these days of extremism when Pakistani youth are being tempted and misled [by certain vested interests; some local and some foreign, inspired, funded and trained by these interests] tourism is the only activity which offers a way out to our youth to join a constructive and beneficial activity [exploring our beautiful country]. Visits by foreign guests could be further fillip to such efforts. For this a consolidated and result oriented tourism policy is badly needed. We on our own do every thing possible to urge the authorities to do this soonest possible. This is a treasure which we do need to explore and explore we must.

      And thanks Manzoor for your visit. Do visit us again with pertinent comment [if any].

  3. I am studying Tourism Management in foreign country.

    I must say that without Government support it can not be promoted and difficult to generate funds. A patriotic leader always think to bring revenue in country’s account which is important.
    I must add here that Pakistan has great opportunities to earn through tourism but if people on seats become loyal.

    we have almost every attraction which tourist want……snow sports, beach, mountain climbing, lake, gardens, monumnets, heritage, religious tourism,

    but what tto do is the question and where to start?

      1. Thank You very much for your concerns. Its really an honour for me to be here on this site.
        This article should be really helpful for Pakistan tourism. I will be in coordination with you in order to have your guidance.



      2. I need to discuss with you something about tourism. Can I have your email address please?

  4. How can Mountaineering and trekking be close to saturation??! As long as humans are being born, we will keep getting mountaineers and trekkers.SIMPLE. Have Miami Beaches and Giza Pyramids been saturated? You might be an executive, Mr Author and don’t know the hearts and minds of a trekker. Bad judgement/analysis.

    1. @Rehan, Plz read once again, Mr. Khan no where has said that there will be no more trekkers or mountaineers. He has only said that in case there is no more rush of mountaineers and trekkers to scale our peaks, or even if they stop coming to Pakistan for this purpose, we should explore more avenues [in addition to existing ones] to lure tourists to our magnificent mountain scenery.

      You are right when you say that till the human spirit survives, the will and the endevour of humanity to explore and conquer will always remain there, and so will be the mountaineers and trekkers, for to explore and to adventure is in human genes and this will always remain so.

  5. Fortunately Pakistan is rich in tourism. In addition to its other special features, tourism particularly is a good sign for the development of our homeland called Pakistan, and which we can turn from a poor third world country to a highly flourished and established economy in the world.
    Unfortunately anti Pakistan lobbies work day and night to paint Pakistan in the eyes of the world as a country that breeds terrorists and unfortunately are quite successful in influencing the media in this regard.
    Media is key player all around the world to inform and educate the masses but to the contrary it is playing highly unethical role as far as Pakistan is cncerned. It portrays Pakistan as a terrorists’ country and this propaganda makes innocent viewers believe such news and breaking news against Pakistan.
    There is a need therefore to raise voice against such negative propaganda. Humans should live in peace and let others live in peace, instead of creating turmoil in other lands and thus perpetuate their rule.
    Dirty politics should not be appreciated.
    “Play fair and Win fair” should be exercised.
    If media all over the world starts exploring tourism prospects of Pakistan, they will find our country’s rich resource of tourism un-matchable to any country in the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
close-alt close collapse comment ellipsis expand gallery heart lock menu next pinned previous reply search share star