Domestic Tourism


Although, one may also tour for business or other purposes, yet for the most part, tourism is generally associated with the carefree/off-work tourism, formerly mentioned. Tourism embodies various types. Among them, one is Domestic tourism. It is the pursuit of tourism where one tours specific to his own country, traveling within the limits of the geographical premises of the country.
Improved domestic tourism will eventually lead to the betterment of international tourism as it paves the way for the advancement of the overall tourism industry. Since domestic tourism provides for a platform, whereby creating exposure of the real image of a country to international tourists, especially because of the expansion of the internet in today’s world, and along with domestic tourisms other benefits, the industry is ought to advance as much as possible which can only happen by overcoming the obstacles facing domestic tourism and implementing the right measurements.
Pakistan’s domestic tourism encounters multiple complications, pre-eminent of which has been the abysmal state of affairs, to begin with, the uncertain political environment of Pakistan, wherefrom arises political instability, that is to say, predominantly, the recurring anti-government protests, long marches, rallies, and Taliban invasions bringing about destruction to infrastructure and blockage to traffic, terrorism acts as in suicide bombs, drone attacks, target killing, aircrafts hijacking, etc., inflation, load-shedding, crimes such as hostage-taking for ransom, mobile snatching at gun-point and so on. Kashmir conflict, Pak-Afghan, and tribal tensions also contribute to Pakistan’s political instability.
The political stability of a state goes hand in hand with the law and order situation. Whether it be Karachi’s adverse conditions due to extreme terror attacks and crimes up till 2010 or Swats Taliban invasion of 2009, for the past few decades, poor law and order situation intensified political instability of Pakistan, thus causing a huge decline in tourism. But as the government took the necessary initiatives to put a stop to it, conditions are improving steadily. The past few decades have shown that reforms as security operations carried out by Law Enforcing Agencies (LEAs); police, rangers, and military and appointment of grievances redressal committees (review committees) – Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) to uphold justice have turned the tables for the better. Therefore, the empowerment and endowment of these agencies and bodies will lead to sustainable law and order and in turn political stability and elevated tourist rate.
The second major factor straggling Pakistan’s domestic and international tourism is the inexistence of a tourism ministry per se at the federal level, rooting back to the above-mentioned problem. As stated in Wikipedia: “The Ministry of Tourism was a ministry of the Government of Pakistan. It was established to develop the tourism industry in Pakistan. It was abolished after the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan was passed. Its main objectives and functions were largely transferred to the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC).” While on the subject, the corporation itself isn’t operating efficiently, facing tremendous losses due to the closure of its motels and hotel and backlash from employees for not being paid and dismissed from their positions.
The political stability of a state goes hand in hand with the law and order situation. Whether it be Karachi’s adverse conditions due to extreme terror attacks and crimes up till 2010 or Swats Taliban invasion of 2009, for the past few decades, poor law and order situation intensified political instability of Pakistan, thus causing a huge decline in tourism. But as the government took the necessary initiatives to put a stop to it, conditions are improving steadily. The past few decades have shown that reforms as security operations carried out by Law Enforcing Agencies (LEAs); police, rangers, and military and appointment of grievances redressal committees (review committees) – Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) to uphold justice have turned the tables for the better. Therefore, the empowerment and endowment of these agencies and bodies will lead to sustainable law and order and in turn political stability and elevated tourist rate.
The second major factor straggling Pakistan’s domestic and international tourism is the inexistence of a tourism ministry per se at the federal level, rooting back to the above-mentioned problem. As stated in Wikipedia: “The Ministry of Tourism was a ministry of the Government of Pakistan. It was established to develop the tourism industry in Pakistan. It was abolished after the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan was passed. Its main objectives and functions were largely transferred to the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC).” While on the subject, the corporation itself isn’t operating efficiently, facing tremendous losses due to the closure of its motels and hotel and backlash from employees for not being paid and dismissed from their positions.
The government should establish a proper federal level ministry that coordinates its provincial units properly and appoint a minister to overlook the affairs of tourism. To promote domestic tourism, the ministry should offer discount packages to the public now and then.
The next major obstacle to domestic tourism is the miserable state of infrastructure, specifically roads outside cities. Some of the finest tourist destinations in Pakistan, especially at night and in winters and rainy seasons are not accessible due to the poor conditions of roads. The dangerous steep roads to mountain landscapes are extremely narrow, unpaved and at significantly high altitudes, because of which private cars are not allowed; commercial vehicles, mainly local jeeps are to be availed as the roads are only well-suited for them, which can be expensive and hence can lead to unpleasant tourist experiences.
Although, most roads to tourist sites that fall under urban areas have been paved, yet unfortunately, many others especially ones leading to rural areas remain in a poor state. For infrastructure development, the government must initiate road construction and renovation schemes, and assign this matter to appropriate regulatory authorities to maintain a check on it.
Unavailability of electricity, water shortage and scarcity of other basic infrastructure resources at local businesses is also a major factor affecting domestic tourism whose provision is the sole responsibility of government.
Overall, the government needs to provide enough subsidy to the infrastructure sector for it to exceed tourists’ expectations.
Another important measure is the promotion and encouragement of private sector investment as the infrastructure and other sectors, vital for the tourism industry constitute both public and private assets which can be done with the help of media creating awareness and governments encouraging policies towards it.
Furthermore, there is little to no traffic management in some major tourist areas, contributing to the violation of traffic rules and accidents. Traffic police authorities must be designated in such areas to ensure smooth traffic flow without accidents.
Lack of healthcare and tourist information centers is another cause of receding domestic tourism. PTDC presents only a few, not well-equipped visitor centers, further, their website provides limited information, thus, the tourists have to gather information either firsthand from locals which can be misleading, or by opting for tour groups, which can be costly. There are almost no healthcare centers near tourist destinations.
There should be a significant number of well-equipped visitor centers with all the information from maps to inns, operating across the country plus proper online platforms with helplines for guiding tourists. Aside from PTDC, local businesses should also be prompted to have an online presence. The staff of local businesses must be first aid trained and well-equipped healthcare centers should be established across tourist sites.
There is a dire need of the hospitality industry, therefore the government assigned the responsibility to authorities to devise courses on hospitality services to prepare a well-trained staff and provide tourists with quality of service.
Pakistan lacks well-trained staff and well-aware locals as seen through numerous Murree incidents where local tourist families were abused, physically attacked, and insulted by the hotel staff and local area people, in turn, causing the start of the “Boycott Murree” campaign throughout the social media that considerably affected the local businesses, leading to huge losses. Not only the misconduct of staff and locals was the problem but also the breakdown of law and order by the police per se for not registering FIRs of the victims and on top of that, the government’s stance was not encouraging.
Therefore, awareness should be raised among the public through various social media platforms. Online and onsite training courses should be offered to educate and train staff and people. Law and order should be followed strictly by everyone, otherwise faced with a penalty.
On the other hand, the tourists also need awareness regarding sanitation, keeping the tourist destinations clean. A major cause of lack of attraction of tourist spots is the uncleanliness. Local tourists’ litter and pollute the landscapes. Poor dense commercialization at some tourist sites also contributes to this.
There should be proper waste management systems maintained and regulated by the governing authority, installing dustbins from place to place.
All in all, Pakistan needs to facilitate and strengthen the constituents of the domestic tourism industry i.e. the sectors such as hospitality, transport, infrastructure, healthcare, police, etc. contributing to domestic tourism growth by reserving funds for authorities or bodies governing them. In addition to that, the government should constantly maintain and regulate the activities of the authorities and review their progress. The government must work on a proper tourism ministry and if not then, improve the conditions of PTDC. The tourism ministry or PTDC should offer discount packages to attract tourists. The underlying sectors of the industry depend on private sector investment, thus governments encouraging policies towards it will prove beneficial. Media should play its role in spreading awareness about tourism, the role of domestic tourism, tourist centers and sites, benefits of online marketing for local businesses, sanitation and recycling, and so on. Staff and people should be educated and trained through online and onsite courses. We, as responsible citizens should also play our role in promoting eco-friendly domestic tourism and encouraging government policies to allow for the growth of our country’s domestic tourism and economy.