CPEC and Tourism in Pakistan
Pakistan remains a land of adventures due to natural beauty stretches from Himalya’s geographical terrains in the north to fluvial Indus delta in the south. The geopolitical environment of the left the tourism industry in recession since the militancy in the northern hemisphere fueled by several foreign interest groups. Since Pakistan has taken over this challenge, the tourism industry growth is exponentially increasing. Traditionally, the infrastructure and facilities to promote the tourism in Pakistan has not been able to cope up with standards which could project tourism as a key factor for sustainable economic development. A blessing in disguise in shape of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has potential to rejuvenate tourism. Its perfect utility in the respective tourism industry will increase the economic gains in multiple ways.
The incumbent govt. in its manifesto termed the tourism as missed opportunity due to war on terror, public private infrastructure services. After came in to power, the govt. demonstrates willingness to promote tourism as per international standards. The Pakistan Tourism and Development Corporation has recently overhauled website to acknowledge the untapped potential which lies in the tourism industry. It swift focus to project the varied flora and fauna stretching from Himalyas to vast Indus plains merging in deserts has been adding up to maximum economic activities. To promote the avenues of tourism, PM Imran Khan has recently lifted restrictions amidst covid-19. The notion of joining CPEC in the sidelines of tourism will further explore tourist avenues in far better ways.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor is multi-billion project for overhauling of the several economic sectors. It has major routes connecting all political units. This division has connected the local industries with regional and global economic actors. In this scenario, the regional and global tourists have increasing interest to explore the natural beauty and culture of Pakistan. Considered as game changer, Mr. Chen Qiang, president of Yema Group Company limited said that “we are planning consultations with Pakistani companies on developing joint tourism products” as many Chinese visited Gilgit Baltistan to explore the opportunities for tourism.
Basically CPEC originates from Kashgar, China and connects to Pakistan through various industrial and Special Economic Zones at decisive end at Gawadar. In Pakistan, CPEC stretches from Khanjerab pass which further stratify itself into four major routes. These routes entails central, northern, eastern, and western having major projects like transportation infrastructure, establishing Gawadar city, energy, industrial cooperation with Special Economic Zones (SEZs) working under Joint Cooperation Committee. In all this scenario, tourist industry has made its place swiftly. Let’s examine the possible gain following the major routes of CPEC. It meant to evaluate the possible economic gain which Pakistan can explore in smart ways. Firstly, the northern parts of Pakistan including Gilgit Baltistan, AJK, and some parts of KPK have attracted the eco-tourist throughout the history of Pakistan. At Himalyas eco-tourism springs from Deosai plains, Fairy Meadows, Nanga Parbat, Shandur, Hunza, Skadrdu, Chitral, Naran Kagan and several other sites. Secondly, few areas in KPK and across Punjab and Sindh, the cultural tourism seems quite interesting and emerging views to explore the glory of several cultural sites. It reflects arts, amusement, love stories, Sufism, and intellects of Indus valley civilization along with Gandhara civilization. Punjab and Sindh also provided agriculture tourism as core to economic activities throughout the history. Finally Baluchistan and Sindh jointly provided an extent of Coastal and Desert tourism which is very appealing in the contemporary world’s tourists. The coastal areas of Pakistan considered to be marvelous and beautiful and still untapped as the infrastructure developments are underway. Another adventurous tourist site is the Thar desert which has natural cultural attraction. In Cholistan, the annual Jeep rally is very famous as it attracts the local and foreigners. The environment during the rally provides symbolic attitude of the local inhabitants. They serve the visitors from different parts of the world like their own. Such events are the true depiction of Pakistani society. It reflects that Pakistan is a place where message of love, compassion, and humanity prevails all over and again.
Apart from the tourism, CPEC involves governing bodies in each sector to be developed under Belt and Road Initiative. To ensure security vulnerability, Pakistan armed forces have deployed a special unit which looks after the security. Infrastructure, industrial sectors, economic zones, and Gawadar city like projects are developing with pace under each governing bodies.
The Pakistan Tourism and Development Corporation should establish a body like these to ensure the emerging growth in tourism sector. It will bring an exponential increase in economic activities.
The tourist whether local or foreigners resides wherever the tour. They live with the local economy. This economic factors in such environment needs demand and supply to be well adjusted. For residence, the furnished restaurants as per international standards must be established along with the CPEC routes. Transportation requires advance vehicles for tourist from one place to another. As the CPEC contains railways and fast track highways, the cost of the leftover adjustment requires just amount to be spent for the rest of economic sector in terms of tourism industry. Such kind of adjustment demands human resource as well as local guides. It means tourism can create up to thousands of jobs for the unemployed youth of Pakistan.
Before conclusive statement, it is pertinent to mention here the fact that China and Pakistan have huge number of crazy adventurous tourist who aimed at visiting the beauty and culture of each other’s state. During 2019, Forbes enlist Pakistan in top ten coolest places for the tourists. The current contribution of tourism in economy is almost 2.7%. It could be added up to 10% in case of implementation of the policies are in the sidelines of CPEC.
Pakistan has been facing hard times in the post 9/11 due to war on terror. It bore the burden of an unending war. Consequently, economic recession, militancy in its very own soil, extremism in all its forms, political instability, civil-military distorted relations, and failure of democracy became the fate of this nation. It can be considered as transitional phase because majority of these issues have lost their essence in one way or the other. The vibrant economy is in the making. Democracy is bearing fruits due to social and political cohesion. The turning point for this change is joint venture of China and Pakistan in the changing global scenario. As the CPEC came down from the Himalyas, the avenues of opportunities for both the nations are being opened. The Initial project details did not mention the tourism as a key economic factor. It eventually came to light that the tourism has likely potential of several economic activities bonded in CPEC. The ball is in Pakistan’s court. Now it depends that how smartly it moves.