Tourism in Pakistan takes a knock

September 26th, 2008 - 4:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Sep 26 (IANS) Pakistan’s tourism industry, which has faced continuous decline since 9/11 and the subsequent war on terror, has been badly affected by the recent wave of suicide attacks - the latest being the Marriott Hotel bombing that left 53 people dead.There are reports that hundreds of bookings made for foreigners in major hotels of the country have been cancelled and no new bookings have been received since the Sep 20 Marriott blast.

Not only in the capital, but in other major cities too, hotels and restaurants that bustle during Ramadan at sunset when Muslims break their fast bear a deserted look as people are afraid to go out.

But the most affected is the tourism industry, which some say now is finished as far as foreign tourists are concerned.

“There are hardly any bookings at our motels from tourists. The only bookings we are rceiving are from businessmen or others on short visits,” said an official of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC).

Previously, PTDC would get bookings through Pakistan’s missions abroad but now, tourists are no longer interested in coming to the country because of the terrorist attacks.

“I am staying in Pakistan for the last 16 years and this is for the first time that I feel scared while going out,” said an American woman who is married to a Pakistani and works with an NGO.

She said she has dual nationality and had been cautioned by an American friend working in the US embassy not to go out these days.

The British High Commission has also cautioned its citizens from going out in public. “The visa section of the high commission is already scheduled to be shifted to Dubai, however, we will continue to receive applications in major cities of Pakistan,” said an official of the British mission in Pakistan.

The official said that they had reduced their outdoor activities and have advised British citizens to be careful while visiting Pakistan. So far no country has placed a complete ban on visiting Pakistan but there are indications that they might resort to it because of increased threat.

The US has also shut its visa and consular section here, saying the closure is temporary.

The city is witnessing extraordinary security, with all individuals and vehicles being thoroughly searched at entry points. The administration might also block seven of the 11 entry points to Islamabad to make the city more secure.

Moreover, Swat in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which used be a great attraction for foreign and domestic tourists, is in the grip of violence with militants demanding implementation of Islamic laws in the country. For the last almost a month the city is facing intermittent curfew.

Swat, which is known as Pakistan’s Switzerland, has more than 5,000 people linked to the hotel industry. They are now jobless due to the lack of tourists. There are also reports that more than 50 restaurants in the city have been closed down.

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