Monday, 18 March 2013
Apart from business, people travel for so many different reasons: to explore, to feel, to learn, to get away from humdrum of the fast lane life, and to lose themselves or find themselves. George Santayana, a Philosopher, has been quoted as describing, “We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.”
In the present cyber era, Internet has brought seismic changes in the ways people travel.World travel industry as a major economic activity appears to have taken off on the Web in a big way. Planning holiday trips online is on the rise in networked countries of the world. According to a survey by PhoCusWright “travel is the top selling service on the Internet that consumers want to buy and it is generating a plenty of competitive spark between service providers: airlines, hotels, and travel agents.”But this is yet not the case when one wants to explore Pakistan. Reasons: Most local tour operators and travel agents have no presence on the World Wide Web. The travel information available only about some obvious locations seems spotty, static, and offers no scenic routing. Foreign travellers are often advised not to trust whatever information that is offered on the Web. Some time they are warned against travelling to Pakistan also. More often than not, warnings by western governments effect arrivals from other countries as well. Online reservations are still not possible. Which is why the foreign travellers to Pakistan who earlier used to depend on gazetteers compiled by British bureaucrats from their own skewed points of view, the guide books written by foreign travel writers now look for travel services outside Pakistan or “ask their personal contacts in the country for the requisite information and help,” tells Muhammad Aurangzeb, a non resident Pakistani working in America? What is more, Travel, adventure, holidays and travel writing are not very popular pursuits locally.
How local travel services present on the Web work here? In order to find this, my first stop was Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) Website that led me to a page where I tried to reserve a room in PTDC Motel. I did not find the site very users’ friendly, to say the least.
One of the things I could get from the official tourism Website was a rich listing of tour operators, some with email addresses. I tried one in Gilgit. My emails were replied efficiently and I could get some information about rates and availability of lodging, guides, porters and transport.
Situation is almost similar in a few other South Asian countries that I tried. My next stops were Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. I visited a few Website, many of them maintained from outside the country. The travel information on the local sites in both countries offer typical travel guide style information: visa rules, currency, events, destinations, hotels, transport, and some dead links. The tour operators I found and contacted through email in both countries also were forthcoming with usual replies to my queries. There were no value added offerings (read discounts) along the mails like one gets from Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity, online global travel powerhouses.
Exponentially growing travel industry cannot be left to public sector alone these days. In Pakistan, all the stakeholders [like PTDC, PIA, Survey of Pakistan, museums, city governments, Auqaf (custodians of many touristy heritage locations), Archaeology Departments and Evacuee Property Trust (Care takers of built heritage left by non Muslims) in public sector and hotels, tour operators and travel agents, and transport companies in private sectors], print and electronic media should work together in close collaborations with each other for a common goal: to facilitate any one planning to see the sights around Pakistan.
Word Tourism Organisation (Silk Rout Project), IUCN – the Word Conversation Union, World Wildlife Fund Pakistan, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (there are eight recognised International Ramsar sites in Pakistan), UNESCO (the Lahore Fort and the Shalimar Garden are on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List), Agha Khan Foundation (hexagonal shrine of Shah Rukn-e-Alam in Multan and a mosque at village Bhong near Sadiq Abad have already won prestigious Agha Khan International Architecture Award) and other interested international agencies can be approached for purposeful partnership.
The glut of government rest houses, especially those situated off the beaten track (also those that are on track), which remain unutilized unless some officials or well connected tourists have to stay there, should be made known and their acquisition made possible, may be from a central location. Putting up a Website with a listing of all the rest houses in Pakistan, with complete addresses, so that they can be booked in advance even from abroad may be good idea to start with.
This can be done by putting services along with other meaningful and current information about every possible destination in the country online. All ministries and departments shall create their Websites in the first place. There should be a comprehensively developed online system to access residential facilities, transport channels, and other services required by international travellers. The sites offering travel information should also include pictorial travelogues and travel stories by the travel writers. The personal experiences of travellers are one of the best ways to learn about new places and strong referrals.
If you have some thing, why not show it? When most touristy location in the world are becoming crowded, people are looking for places that are pristine, quiet, serene, and those they can have to themselves. Pakistan still has some left in the country. The need is to market the travel potentials of the country, largely unknown to outside world. And there is no other medium better than the Web for this purpose, particularly when every interested person is logging on to find what is left there to be seen.
posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, March 18, 2013,
- At 11:47, jalalHB said...
Pakistan is a tourists haven - alas poorly advertised by concerned quarters. Despite what goes on here on account of war on terror, there are a lot a safe places for everyone to come and visit.
PS: Whenever taking of Pakistan, please dont forget Pakistanpaedia for more info:
- At 20:11, Shirazi said...
See the link now. Yes, It is a great resource on Pak.
- At 16:11, Sadaf Khan said...
That's Fabulous Blog I'm glad that I drop by your page and found this very interesting. Impressive indeed.
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