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Time to boost Pakistan’s dismal 0.2pc share of South Asian tourism market

Pakistan’s share of tourism revenues is less than 0.2% among South Asian countries with receipts of only $875 million in 2017.

By Javad M Goraya
January 27, 2019

RAWALPINDI: Approval of new facilities like visa on arrival for 50 countries and electronic visas for 175 nationalities in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan is an important step towards increasing Pakistan’s dismal share in global tourism annual market of nearly $1.6 trillion. 

Pakistan’s share of tourism revenues is less than 0.2% among South Asian countries with receipts of only $875 million in 2017.

India by comparison is way ahead with tourism revenues of $28 billion in 2017 as per United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) data, reported international media. The presence of Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa in the meeting chaired by prime minister to ease visa restrictions was symbolic to signal to the world that Pakistan is secure and keen to attract business and leisure visitors. However, how ready is Pakistan for greater tourism activity still remains a concern on a number of counts.

Tourism is a major prelude to attracting foreign investment as global investment managers consider a tourist’s confidence in a country’s law and order, infrastructure and financial services an important benchmark.

Indian tourism revenues have nearly doubled since 2010 to $28 billion in 2017 whereas Pakistan revenues have remained stagnant during this period. India has nearly 70% share of South Asian tourism market of over $40 billion followed by Sri Lanka and Maldives. Despite its amazing diversity and attractions, Pakistan has only 0.2% share of South Asian tourism and almost non-existent share of global tourism.

Around 57% global tourist activity took place via air in 2017 as per UNWTO data. If Pakistan plans to benefit from the untapped tourism industry, it has to turnaround PIA (debts of over Rs400 billion) and its aviation infrastructure and airline options.

In Turkey, the growth of Turkish Airlines and Turkish tourism happened in tandem since 2003. Turkish Airlines annual revenues increased from $600 million in 2003 to around $10 billion now and its tourist earning have increased from a few billion dollars to over $30 billion now.

USA remains the world top revenue earner from tourism with revenues of $210 billion whereas France received the highest number of 87 million tourists in 2017 but its tourism revenues are around $60 billion.

Spain is number two in tourist arrivals and revenues with 82 million tourists and $68 billion in revenues respectively.

Countries like UAE and Thailand have achieved extraordinary success from its tourism sector. Thailand tourism revenues have almost tripled since 2010 to $62 billion in 2017 whereas UAE tourism revenues have increased from $8.5 billion to $21 billion between 2010-17. Europe accounts for nearly one third of annual global tourist revenues with over $500 billion followed by Asia Pacific and Americas. Chinese are the top spenders of tourism dollars with spending of $257 billion in 2017 followed by USA with $135 billion.

The cities modelled on tourism and business like Hong Kong earned $38 billion from tourism alone in 2017 which is more than the tourism earnings of entire mainland China. Singapore earnings from tourism in 2017 were over $20 billion.

As per UNWTO data for 2017, there is huge increase in tourism within one’s own region and 4 out of 5 tourists only travel within their own region.

PTI government focus on tourism is welcome due to Pakistan amazing tourist spots. With further improvement in law and order, better aviation sector and tourist handling, Pakistan can easily approach $5 billion from annual tourism revenues.