The right direction/ EDITORIAL

Developing tourism to create jobs and boost the national economy has been a favourite theme with Prime Minister Imran Khan. For decades now, he has waxed lyrical about the virgin natural beauty of Pakistan’s mountains and plateaus, their tremendous potential and the need to protect them. Thankfully, he has also sought this time around to goad his government into action to provide the necessary facilities for tourists venturing to visit the largely uncharted plains and shores of Balochistan and Sindh and think beyond religious tourism.
Apart from various pilgrimages undertaken for devotional reasons the word ‘tourism’ brings to mind destinations like Murree, Swat, Kaghan and Gilgit-Baltistan. Given the long and harsh summer in the plains it is no wonder that the domestic, as well as foreign tourists should favour the many hill stations. However, the near monopoly has been a mixed blessing at best. On one hand, the unrestrained crowds have already marred the beauty of these destinations and threaten to cause even more damage, including catastrophic environmental damage; on the other, a number of great tourism destinations remain unexplored. There is a crying need to protect the tourism sites from irresponsible littering and unplanned logging and construction. There is a need also to educate the tourists to preserve nature and follow sensible rules. Developing more tourism sites across the country too can contribute to the preservation of the currently popular sites. It can also help diversify and expand the tourism sector and create gainful employment in areas where it is most urgently needed.
The prime minister has also talked of the need to protect the culture and traditions of local peoples. Managed well, tourism is a great way to promote the cultures of host communities. As some of the tribal areas open up to tourists, the departments concerned need to take a raft of measures to educate the tourists about respecting local cultures.
For its part, the provincial government of the Punjab has announced plans to develop tourism infrastructure in Mianwali, Kotli Sattian, Koh-i-Suleman and Attock Khurd. There can be no disagreement that provision of upscale facilities will create more choices for Pakistani as well as foreign tourists. It will also create new jobs and business opportunities for local people.
While congratulating the government on settling on a wise course, we must also point out that many more potential sites await similar indulgence.
This paper will be watching developments in this regard and you will read about it in these pages. Tourism developing into a performing sector of the national economy can only be good news.

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