Tourism in Pakistan is a growing industry. In 2010, Lonely Planet termed Pakistan as being “…tourism’s ‘next big thing’ for more years than we care to remember. [But] world media headlines [always] send things off the rails” This geographically and ethnically diverse country has much to offer; from natural beauty, historical heritage to cultural diversity.
According to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 released by the World Economic Forum, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Pakistan’s GDP in 2015 was US$ 328.3 million, constituting 2.8% of the total GDP. By 2025, the government predicts tourism will contribute ₨1 trillion (US$9.5 billion) to the Pakistani economy. In October 2006, one year after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, The Guardian released what it described as “The top five tourist sites in Pakistan” to help the country’s tourism industry.
The sites included Lahore, the Karakoram Highway, Karimabad and Lake Saiful Muluk. To promote country’s unique cultural heritage, Pakistan launched the “Visit Pakistan” marketing campaign in 2007. This campaign involved events throughout the year including fairs and religious festivals, regional sporting events, arts and craft shows, folk festivals and openings of historical museums. In 2009, The World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report ranked Pakistan as one of the top 25% tourist destinations for its World Heritage sites. It ranged from mangroves in the south, to the 5,000-year-old cities of the Indus Valley Civilization which included Mohenjo-daro and Harappa.
The main destinations of choice for tourists to Pakistan are the Khyber Pass, Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, Swat and Rawalpindi.
Chaukhandi Tombs in Sindh
Alamgiri Gate at Lahore Fort in Punjab
Naltar Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan
Buddhist ruins at Takht Bhai in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Dhirkot Park Bagh, ajk
In 2016, foreign tourists visiting Pakistan stood at 965,498. Pakistan’s tourism industry attracted an estimated of 1.1 million foreign tourists annually in 2011 and 966,000 in 2012 contributing $351 million and $369 million respectively.
Before declining to 565,212 in 2013 which contributed only $298 million, in 2014, Pakistan received 530,000 foreign tourists contributing $308 million. By comparison, Pakistan’s domestic tourism industry is estimated at 50 million tourists who travel in the country on short trips usually between May to August.
The largest tourism inflow in 2010 was from United Kingdom, followed by United States, India and China.