by Aftab Rana
This year the world is celebrating World Tourism Day at a time when the travel and tourism industry is passing through a very crucial phase due to the ongoing global Covid-19 crisis. According to the latest reports of UNWTO, international tourist arrivals has already dropped by 65% during the first half of the year showing the severe impact COVID-19 on the sector.
Over the recent weeks, a growing number of destinations have started to open up again to international tourists. UNWTO reports that, as of early September, 53% of destinations had eased travel restrictions. Nevertheless, many governments remain cautious, and this latest report shows that the lockdowns introduced during the first half of the year have had a massive impact on international tourism. The sharp and sudden fall in arrivals has placed millions of jobs and businesses at risk. I hope this World Tourism Day will provide us an opportunity to sit back and realign our policies and plans to make our tourism more sustainable and responsible.
The purpose of celebration of World Tourism Day is to foster awareness among the people around the world about the importance of tourism and its social, cultural and economic significance. The theme chosen for this year is “Tourism and Rural Development”. This theme is particularly important for Pakistan because we are mainly a rural country, tourism can greatly contribute for the socio-economic development of our rural areas which are otherwise neglected in the overall development agenda of government which are usually more focused on the development of urban centres.
The rural natural beauty of Pakistan is unmatched. The rural communities of Pakistan offer a range of unique natural and cultural attractions to the visitors from urban areas of Pakistan and foreign visitors from abroad. Promotion of rural tourist activities could help in strengthening the local, provincial and national economy and putting the country on the road to progress and development. Tourism also helps a lot in promoting the soft image of a country at international level. By focusing on the international best practices of sustainable tourism we can ensure long lasting socio-economic development of rural areas in particular and tourism sector in general.
On the occasion of World Tourism Day 2020, I would like to request to the federal and provincial governments to please assign due importance and priority to the development of tourism sector in Pakistan as it has been greatly neglected in the past and already many tourist areas have lost their natural and cultural charm due to mushroom growth and unplanned development done on adhoc basis. Now time has come that all the stakeholders should focus on the implementation of innovative ideas of responsible and sustainable tourism to ensure that our tourist destinations are carefully developed and properly managed to provide a unique and authentic touristic experience of Pakistan to the foreign and domestic visitors.