ARTICLE: The PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has done good work for the promotion of tourism. It is about to launch "Gandhara Strip' project showcasing the province's rich archeological heritage. On offer to visitors is a 7-day trip that will take them to 22 heritage sites from the region's Buddhist powers of antiquity, spread all over KP as well as Taxila Museum, another significant section of the 'Buddhist Trail' located in Punjab. The area, according to officials concerned, is home to some 2000 heritage sites and as many as 30, 000 relics from the Gandhara civilization. The project is expected to attract Buddhist monks and pilgrims from South East Asian countries as well as international archeologists, art historians, heritage tourists, et al.
Of course, it is not enough to publicize archeological treasures. Just as important is the development of infrastructure, such as roads and hotels as well as travel security and facilitation services. The government has set up Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Integrated Tourism Development project worth $ 70 million with financial assistance from the World Bank to enhance tourism assets, and strengthen destination management for sustainable tourism development. Another significant policy initiative is the establishment of tourism zones designed to regulate commercial activities and also promote tourism entrepreneurship. Several national and international companies are reported to have expressed interest in investing in these zones. The effort will take time to come to fruition. For now, the government is all set to kick off the Gandhara Strip project, complete with a plan to hold Gandhara Festival by the end of the next month. Considering that the Covid-19 pandemic continues to take its toll in several other countries, few if any, foreign tourists are likely to arrive from next year. Nonetheless, the project is also to provide Pakistanis with a good opportunity to connect with their heritage.
It is therefore encouraging to note that domestic tourism has been growing fast during the recent years. Despite the coronavirus scourge people have been flocking to upcountry scenic destinations, such as the Guliyat, the Swat Valley, and Naran. Keeping with the times, internet services have come up to provide information about travel routes, accommodation facilities, help lines, etc. And the authorities have intervened to ensure people observed SOPs, requiring them to give details of travel and lodging plans to be approved by relevant officials. It is about time the other provinces with their diverse historical, archeological, and cultural heritages and other attractions also streamlined the affairs of their respective tourism departments. They need to take a holistic approach towards long-term development of the tourism industry which holds a huge untapped potential to contribute to the national economy and better the lives of people.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020