Pakistan is a tourist paradise but it needs to promote adventure tourism first
Pakistan was rated the best holiday destination and the third most potential adventure destination in the world for 2020 by the Chinese high-end travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler. In 2019, the Forbes and the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report termed Pakistan as one of the “coolest places” to visit and one of world heritage global tourism destinations.
Blessed with diversified tourism resources, Pakistan embraces unique natural scenes as well as historical and cultural heritages. The snow-capped Himalayas and the sunny beaches of the Arabian Sea showcase its rich and expansive natural landscapes, which integrate snow-capped mountains, forests, canyons, lakes and beaches, all 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 changes, Islam became the state religion and is so till date.
Pakistan has six UNESCO world cultural sites, including Buddhist ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and the remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol，the Fort and Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, Rohtas Fort, Taxila-Buddhist relics, historical monuments at Makli，and the archaeological ruins at Moenjodaro.
In addition, the famous Badshahi Mosque and the King Faisal Mosque, which is the sixth-largest mosque in the world, attract tourists from all over the world.
In recent years, the government of Pakistan has made efforts to develop the tourism industry, improving tourism service infrastructures, conserving and salvaging cultural relics and launching visa-free policies for Chinese tourists since Prime Minister Imran Khan took office in 2018.
“Pakistan has huge tourism potential. We will promote tourism to boost the economy”, Imran Khan said in his first televised speech to the nation. In 2017, the number of foreign tourists was 2.5 million, and two years later, in 2019, it soared to 3.5 million. The United Kingdom is the biggest source of tourists for Pakistan, followed by the United States, India and China.
Pakistan has great attraction for Chinese tourists. In the minds of the Chinese people, the cultural distance between the two makes the Pakistani people and the Chinese people have great attraction for 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 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, I would like to offer some specific suggestions, which are:
First, according to the Butler Destination Life Cycle theory, Pakistan is at the involvement stage, where adventure tourism is more attractive to foreign tourists. These tourists seek uncharted places and like to discover new destinations few people have set foot on. Based on the analysis, Pakistan should first focus on market segmentation and attract Chinese adventurers.
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. In particular, Pakistan needs to further strengthen the protection of Chinese projects and personnel, so as to give foreign tourists a sense of security.
Fourth, generally speaking, there is a lack of tourism professionals in South Asian countries who are familiar with Chinese tourists' consumption preferences. Therefore, the relevant departments in Pakistan should strengthen the cultivation of talents in this field.
According to World Travel and Tourism Council statistics, in 2019, the tourism industry contributed 5.9% to Pakistan GDP, and created 3.9 million jobs. If Pakistan`s tourism industry is developed to the level of China, its contribution to the GDP will increase by 5% to 11% and 2.37 million more jobs will be added.
Dr. Wang Yingying, research fellow and Vice Secretary-General of Chengdu Institute of World Affairs.