Hopes were high regarding the tourist industry of Pakistan, with the government adopting policies and measures to make Pakistan’s tourism a unique and fun experience. Good things were expected with Pakistan bagging the top position on Conde Nast Travelers List of Best Holiday Destinations for 2020.
Despite the scenic beauty, rich history, and ancient archaeological sites, Pakistan never garnered Western tourists. But the extensive national and international media coverage of the royal visit of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor in Punjab for the Sikh pilgrims across the border to visit Nankana Sahib, Baba Guru Nanak birthplace, and the maiden visit of the Buddhist Monk, the Most Venerable Arayawangso in 2019 brought Pakistan in the international limelight.
In addition to famous personalities, domestic tourists with families, witty bloggers, adventurous hitchhikers, and daring vloggers all visited Pakistan to enjoy its rich culture, old traditions, lyrical language, and delicious cuisine.
An analysis of the tourism sector by the Economic Revitalization of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA revealed 5 million tourists in KPK in 2018, contributing $ 5-6 million to the local revenue and supporting 8,665 jobs.
The panoramic valleys of Hunza, Chitral, and Swat experienced a phenomenal tourist increase in 2018-2019, especially during summers.
But 2020 dawned with a health crisis and a worldwide emergency. Bans on travelings, closing of shops, restaurants, and hotels, and booking cancellations are rampant with countries going into lockdown situations.
Unfortunately, 6,000 plus positive cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the country despite intense containment efforts.
The international and domestic flights have come to a screeching halt. The airlines are sustaining millions of dollars worth of losses every day. The authorities have also banned all types of public transport within the country.
The iconic monuments, tourist hotspots, playgrounds, amusement parks, cinemas, bazaars, and shopping malls were closed by the end of March across the country, affecting the business industry and the economy of Pakistan extensively.
Restaurants have shifted to deliveries and takeaways as the seating areas are closed following the government instructions regarding containment. Hotel bookings are canceled with a minimum staff at hand for few guests.
Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) have sustained a loss of around $19 million due to a light flight schedule in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
KP’s tourism sector alone is facing a potential loss of $21 million in revenues and a scaled-down operation leading to a loss of 260,000 jobs. The Punjab and Sindh tourism sectors are also fearing a decrease in the local income and job opportunities.
Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected Pakistan’s economy and revenue sources. As almost $7.6 billion is generated from the tourism sector, the local economy is going through a tough time. Even in such grim circumstances, Pakistan stands firm in the fight against the corona pandemic and is working tirelessly for its containment.
The post-pandemic period will witness an upgrading of the tourism sector, focusing on restoring livelihoods, improving infrastructure, and making Pakistan safe for the tourists to once again enjoy its stunning vistas.