More than six months after British Airways resumed operations to Pakistan, the United Kingdom on Friday relaxed its travel advisory for the country in a major step welcomed by Islamabad as “great news”.
The UK changed its travel advice for Pakistan in almost five years, allowing its citizens to travel by road to the north of Pakistan as well as the scenic Kalash and Bamboret valleys, the UK High Commission in Islamabad said on Friday.
The first major update of the travel advice by Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) since 2015 is the result of a comprehensive review of Pakistan’s security situation based on a wide-ranging assessment of the country’s security situation.
Pakistan has made tremendous strides towards bettering the internal security situation. In June, British Airways resumed operations to Pakistan after 11 years of suspension, when the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner touched down at Islamabad International Airport.
In October, Pakistan rolled out red carpet for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as the royal couple undertook an array of engagements over five days, which took them as far as Chitral district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
A statement issued by the British High Commission on Friday mentioned the return of British Airways to Pakistan and the visit by Prince William and his wife Catherine, as major milestones in the “improved security situation” in Pakistan.
“The improved security situation allowed for the return of British Airways to Pakistan in June 2019 and the visit by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in October 2019,” it said. “Among other changes, the advice now allows for travel by road to the North of Pakistan as well as the Kalash and Bamboret Valleys,” the high commission said.
The announcement follows the arrival of Dr Christian Turner, as the new high commissioner to Pakistan. “Following my arrival in December 2019, I made this review of the travel advice a priority,” the statement quoted Turner as saying.
“It is great credit to the hard work of the Government of Pakistan in delivering improved security over the past five years. I am delighted that British nationals will be able to see more of what Pakistan has to offer,” he added.
Previously, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice put travel restriction on the full route from Islamabad to Gilgit.
However, Friday’s update reduces the restriction on section of the Karakoram Highway between Mansehra and Chilas alone. “Travellers may bypass this section by taking the alternative route through the Kaghan Valley and Babusar Pass,” it said.
The FCO advised against all travel to most of Balochistan, including Quetta. “This is except for the southern coast of Balochistan, including the city of Gwadar, where the FCO advises against all but essential travel,” it added.
Friday’s announcement was warmly welcomed by the Pakistani leadership, who described it as a major step towards the government’s efforts to boost tourism, attract foreign investment and further strengthen relations with the UK.
“This is great news as it will address two most important economic issues facing Pakistan today: employment & our current account deficit, by bringing in tourism & investment which in turn will provide employment opportunities especially for our youth,” Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also lauded the announcement. “This change in travel advice is encouraging … [and] will further strengthen Pakistan-UK relations,” he wrote in a tweet.
“Pakistan; land of peace and progress with incredible natural beauty, warmth & hospitality. This change in travel advice is encouraging, the first major update to the UK’s travel advisory to Pakistan since 2015. This will further strengthen Pakistan-UK relations. Welcome to Pakistan.”
Earlier, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said in a statement that the government and the people of Pakistan welcomed the FCO’s announcement of relaxing its travel advice for the British nationals for Pakistan.
“A positive step forward, forging even stronger and closer people-to-people links between Pakistan and the UK,” she said on Twitter. “Look forward to welcoming more tourists, investors, academics and other visitors from the UK.”
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan in a meeting with High Commissioner Turner, termed the British government’s decision “vital” step towards boosting tourism activities in Pakistan.
“Pakistan is now open to the world, with peaceful and welcoming environment,” she said during the meeting. High Commissioner Turner said the travel advisory revision would pave the way for enhanced travel and connectivity between the two countries.
“I have been to the UNESCO sites and amazed to see the tourism potential of Pakistan,” Turner said, adding the credit went to the government of Pakistan under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan for ensuring better security conditions in the country.
The FCO provides travel advice based on objective information to help British nationals make better informed decisions about foreign travel. In 2018, there were an estimated 484,000 visits by British nationals to Pakistan. There are 22 weekly direct flights to the UK.
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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”. In 2018, the British Backpacker Society ranked Pakistan as the world’s top adventure travel destination, describing the country as “one of the friendliest countries on earth, with mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.”The country is geographically and ethnically diverse, and has a number of historical and cultural heritage sites. 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.According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Pakistan’s GDP in 2016 was US$7.6 billion (PKR 793.0 billion), constituting 2.7% of the total GDP.By 2025, the government predicts tourism will contribute ₨1 trillion (US$7.1 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 the 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 Swat, Lahore, Khyber Pass, Peshawar, Karachi and Rawalpindi.
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 afterwards the numbers rose to 1.9 million tourists in the year 2018 .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.
In 2019, the government has ended the requirement of a no-objection certificate (NOC) for foreign tourists seeking to visit certain parts of Pakistan Border crossing is also announced opened and non-restricted except 10 miles of Pak-China border, Pak-Afghan border (Wakhan corridor), AJK (along LoC), GB (along LoC), Siachen (along line of actual contact.
The country’s attractions range from the ruin of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, to the Himalayan hill stations, for those interested in winter sports Pakistan is home to several mountain peaks over 7000 m, which draw adventurers and mountaineers from around the world, especially K2. The north part of Pakistan has many old fortresses, ancient architecture and the Hunza, Chitral Valley, home to small Kalash people community and Fairy Meadows, Diamer District of Gilgit Baltistan. The romance of the historic Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is timeless and legendary, Punjab province has the historic city Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital, with many examples of Mughal architecture such as Badshahi Masjid, Shalimar Gardens, Tomb of Jahangir and the Lahore Fort. Before the global economic crisis Pakistan received more than 500,000 tourists annually since 2000.
A popular American business magazine ‘Forbes’ has included Pakistan to the top ten ‘coolest places’ where tourists must go in the new year of 2019.
It has recently published a report by Ann Abel, an experienced travel writer. She after interviewing various experts at several high-end travel companies, has suggested tourists all along the world the ten best places for travelling during 2019.
The names of the places are given below in alphabetical order:
The Azores (Portugal), Eastern Bhutan, Cabo/Los Cabos (Mexico), Colombia, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mongolia, Pakistan, Rwanda and Turkey.
10 Tips on how to be an Eco-friendly Tourist.
Many of you will be planning to go to northern areas to spend your summer vocations. I invite you to help conserve the natural beauty of our mountain areas for generations to come. Following 10 tips will help you to “step gently” in the fragile environment and make your visit environmentally friendly:-
1. Don’t Litter
Litter is unattractive, harmful to people and wildlife. Plan your visit to reduce rubbish, and carry out what you carry in.
2. Keep Streams and Lakes Clean
When cleaning or washing, take the water and wash well away from the water source.
3. Bury Toilet Waste
In areas without toilet facilities, bury your toilet waste in a shallow hole well away from waterways, tracks, campsites and lodges.
4. Take Care of Fires
Portable fuel stoves are less harmful to the environment and are more efficient than fires. If you do use a fire, keep it small, use only dead wood and make sure it is out by dousing it with water and checking the ashes before leaving.
5. Camp Carefully
When camping. Leave no trace of your visit.
6. Keep to the Track
By keeping to the track, where one exists, you lessen the chance of damaging fragile plants.
7. Consider Others
People visit nature areas for many reasons. Be considerate of other visitors who also have a right to enjoy the natural environment. Respect local customs in your dress and behaviour. Do not play loud music and respect the quietness of nature.
8. Respect Our Cultural Heritage.
If you pass by any site of historical and spiritual significance, treat these places with consideration and respect.
9. Protect Plants and Animals.
Treat forests, animals and birds with care and respect. They are unique and rare. Do not damage, disturb or remove any plants or animals. Do not purchase animal parts and products.
10. Enjoy your Visit.
Enjoy your outdoor experience. Take a last look before leaving an area; will the next visitor know that you have been there?
Protect the environment for your own sake, for the sake of those who come after you and for the environment itself.
In short, Take nothing but good memories and nice photos…Leave nothing but carefully placed footsteps.”
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