Tourism’s ability to drive inclusive development

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World Tourism Day is celebrated each year on September 27 to spread awareness about the importance of tourism and its impact on our society. The day is also celebrated to spread awareness about global challenges outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to underline efforts the tourism industry can make achieving the sustainable development goals. United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the global body responsible for the promotion of tourism, has been celebrating the World Tourism Day on September 27 since 1980. However, this specific date was chosen, since back on this day the UNWTO adopted its statutes, which are considered milestones in the global tourism space.

However, the UNWTO General Assembly decided in October 1997 in Turkey to designate a host country each year to act as the organization’s partner in the celebration of World Tourism Day. In 2020, the theme was tourism and rural development and the event was celebrated in Argentina. However, tourism for inclusive growth is the theme for the World Tourism Day 2021. This year’s official celebration will be hosted by Cote d’Ivoire, celebrating tourism’s ability to drive inclusive development and the role it plays in promoting respect while generating opportunities for many millions across the globe. The message along is to fully showcase the potential of tourism to create jobs for all and bring communities together.

Talking about the global tourism, the tourism industry has become one of the fastest growing economic sectors today. Over the last few years, the tourism industry has seen a tremendous expansion and growth. Arrival of the international tourists has grown significantly in the past few decades. Now, it has grown from 25 million in 1950 to 1.3 billion in 2019. The revenues earned have also increased from $2 billion in 1950 to $1,260 trillion in 2015. This industry is estimated to be worth 10% of the global GDP and provides one in 10 jobs globally. The UN body expects an annual growth of 3% in the tourism industry until 2030.

In Pakistan, the collective hospitality and tourism industry is estimated to be worth $20 billion and contributing 3% to the GDP in year 2021. Moreover, the industry provides employment to an estimated three million people directly and indirectly. Our tourism industry was in heydays in 70’s when Karachi was supposed as ‘mini Dubai.’ After decades, Pakistan came once again into the highlights, a personal thanks to efforts of Prime Minister Imran Khan. The tourism industry of Pakistan is an emergent market; at least from the global perspective, its wealth of scenic landscapes, particularly its stunning mountain vistas in the north, has increasingly been getting noticed.

The British Backpacker Society ranked Pakistan as its top travel destination for 2018, and last year, Forbes termed it one of the coolest countries to visit. It seems authorities failed to build on that momentum and goodwill, even though the prime minister has often correctly cited the potential for tourism to become a major source of foreign exchange. Even as recently as December 2019, Wanderlust travel magazine singled out Pakistan as its hot list destination for 2020 along life and luxury magazine Conde Nast traveler highlighted Pakistan as the best holiday destination 2020. Of course, the pandemic has derailed tourism everywhere.

More to say, the government has redesigned the tourism policy, but its affects have not seen so far, one example is there are dozens of PTDC motels in top tourism destination even in Sust area near China border that is the home to the world recognized mountains and gateway to Khunjrab but barren. I believe Pakistan has destinations, and the policies along with the infrastructure, but no one is ready to manage and implement these. In year 2006, a heavy earthquake was reported in the northern region and then the policy was made to involve no concrete in the construction of buildings because that area was spotted for regular catastrophes. However, some negligence can be seen over there. We can see there’s no idea of eco-tourism, as you would find garbage and plastic in the clear waters.

Recently, I came back from Gwadar as I heard of its exotic beaches. However, I found plastic more or less. I have a question from my society that do we not belong to this planet. I don’t know how many people would understand the importance of sustainable tourism, but I believe there would be some at least. However, we have to work honestly to make Pakistan’s tourism sustainable and inclusive for growth. With our combine efforts, I believe that Pakistan can be a next host on the World Tourism Day with the theme of eco-tourism.

Munaza Kazmi holds MPhil in Management Sciences, is a travel writer, an author, and a co-author of scientific contributions in national and international publications. She can be reached on Twitter @munaza_kazmi.