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Comment: Murtaza Hashwani on why Pakistan’s tourism sector is set for success in 2022

Hashoo Group’s deputy chairman says the MICE sector will drive tourism in Pakistan 

All the signs point to a robust year for Pakistan’s tourism sector – despite the ongoing global Covid-19 issues – with two areas looking particularly positive: rural tourism and the Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibitions (MICE) segment.

Of course, Pakistan is well known for having spectacular landscapes and beautiful countryside, but its rural areas still need more support and investment to capitalise on these natural assets.

Infrastructure plans have to be implemented for more private sector hospitality investors to capitalise on this sector and subsequently grow the economy in the rural areas through job opportunities.

Attabad Lake Pakistan - shutterstock_1284987184Attabad Lake, Pakistan

Pakistan’s government is stepping up the efforts by generating more employment opportunities in rural districts. Not only will this ease pressure on urban areas, it will also add significantly to both the local and national economies.

With these factors in place, tourism looks ready to take off in 2022 for Pakistan’s rural areas. Investment is pouring in, which will help with developing new hotels, roads and internet and data network services – as well as tackling some environmental and reconstruction issues that need addressing.

If enough investment is put in from government and private sectors, rural tourism will flourish. Local people will be able to get jobs in their vicinity and spend their life close to their families, while being part of an exciting new era. Not only that, local vendors and small family-owned businesses will benefit from this investment.

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Pakistan’s Rural Attractions
Two notable rural areas on the rise that show how much potential there is for the future, include Naltar Valley and Attabad Lake.

Naltar Valley near the city of Gilgit in Gilgit – Baltistan is developing fast due to its stunning turquoise lakes, lush forests, mountains and buzzing ski resort.

Also in Gilgit−Baltistan, the breath-taking Attabad Lake – which was created by a natural disaster in 2010 – is now a prime tourist attraction for jet skiing, fishing, boating, and many other recreational activities.

Another location with plenty of promise is the Kalam Valley along the bank of Swat River in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. This beauty spot is under development and is seeing an increase in tourists attracted to its picturesque mountains, forests and lakes.

Another notable success story is Mabali Island located at the Khanpur Dam. This unique destination has become popular with families wanting a fun-packed break in beautiful surroundings with plenty of water sports, camping facilities and on-site restaurants.

Attention from international travel media and influencers is also increasing awareness of Pakistan’s tourism offering

One of travel and aviation’s biggest global superstar creators, Sam Chui, recently visited Pakistan and stayed at the Marriott Hotel Islamabad. He documented his entire trip on his YouTube channel complimenting the country’s hospitality and its natural beauty as he visited multiple cities and rural areas during his trip.

Pakistan’s Tourism Infrastructure and Events
In terms of infrastructure to boost tourism links to rural areas, the eagerly awaited New Gwadar International Airport (NGIA) in the Balochistan province is on track and will be fully operational by September 2023, opening up more travel and tourism opportunities for local as well as international travellers.

At the same time, Pakistan’s MICE hospitality segment is going from strength to strength and will certainly be boosted by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This nearly 2,000-mile route that links China’s Xinjiang province with Gwadar in Pakistan’s Balochistan province will increase trade through a network of highways, railways and improved infrastructure.

CPEC is poised to substantially increase business-focused travel in some less visited parts of Pakistan – another boost for rural districts – leading to an increased need for MICE traffic and hotels.

This year will set the tone for the future of tourism in Pakistan, for business and for leisure, as promising steps are taken by both the government and private sector.

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