A study commissioned by the World Bank has identified 23 selected tourist sites across the province of Punjab to delineate the engagement of youth and women in the tourism sector who remain under-represented in most economic activities and policy thinking.
The World Bank has been engaged by the Punjab government to provide technical and financial assistance in catalysing tourism’s growth multiplier in the province. This support has been launched through the bank-assisted Punjab Tourism for Economic Growth project.
The identified sites were:
Derawar Fort (Bahawalpur), shrine of Hazrat Syed Ahmed Sultan Sakhi Sarwar (Dera Ghazi Khan), Fort Munro (D.G. Khan), tombs of Shah Rukne Alam, Shah Shams and Mai Maharban (Multan), Harappa (Sahiwal), shrine of Hazrat Baba Haji Sher Chawli Mashaikh (Vehari), shrine (darbar) of Sakhi Saidan Shah Shirazi (Choa Saidan Shah, Chakwal), Rohtas Fort (Jhelum), Mazar Sakhi Sultan Bahu (Jhang), Nur Jahan’s tomb (Lahore), Kalabagh (Mianwali), Sadiq Garh Palace (Bahawalpur), Cholistan Desert (Bahawalpur), Khanpur dam (Haripur), Jallo Park (Lahore), shrine of Hazrat Makhdum Jahaniyan Jahangasht (Bahawalpur), Hiran Minar (Sheikhupura), Lal Suhanra National Park (Bahawalpur), Khabeki Lake (Khushab), Thal Desert, and Raja Man Singh’s Haveli (Jhelum).
The country is geographically and ethnically diverse, and has a number of historical and cultural heritage sites. The upsurge in tourism in the past few years has been aided by the Government of Pakistan’s recent decision to end mandatory No Objection Certificates for foreign tourists seeking to visit certain parts of the country.
In 2018, the British Backpacker Society ranked Pakistan as the world’s top adventure travel destination, describing the country as “one of the friendliest countries on earth, with mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.”
Forbes ranked Pakistan as one of the ‘coolest places’ to visit in 2019. The World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report placed Pakistan in the top 25 per cent of global destinations for its World Heritage sites, which range from the mangroves in the Indus delta, to the Indus Valley Civilization sites including Mohenjo-daro and Harappa.
According to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 released by the World Economic Forum, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Pakistan’s GDP in 2015 was US$328.3 million, constituting 2.8% of the total GDP.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Pakistan’s GDP in 2016 was US$7.6 billion (PKR 793.0 billion), constituting 2.7% of the total GDP. By 2025, the government predicts tourism will contribute ₨1 trillion (US$7.1 billion) to the Pakistani economy.
In 2019, Pakistan increased the availability of travel visas in a bid to increase tourism. The new program grants visas on arrival to travelers from 50 countries, including the United States. Citizens of another 175 countries can apply for visas on the internet. Previously, visas could only be obtained from Pakistani embassies abroad.
Most tourist businesses around the 23 selected sites appear to be insufficient. While they experience increased revenues around seasonal high flows, their profitability declines as incomes increase.