Pakistan government announced that it plans to offer visa-on-arrival to citizens from 50 nations while facilitating electronic visas to 175 nationalities. This is a major step by Imran Khan government to boost trade and tourism in cash-strived Pakistan.
The reforms, approved by the cabinet, would open up a new era for the tourism industry, which was devastated by terrorist violence after Sept 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said.
“We have mountain tourism, we have beach tourism,” he told reporters in Islamabad, referring to Himalayan peaks and the Arabian Sea beaches seldom visited by foreigners.
“Pakistan is a heaven for tourists.” the minister did not identify the countries that would benefit from the new rules but in December, he told Reuters that citizens of most European countries would be granted a visa on arrival.
Tourists would also be allowed to visit the politically sensitive Himalayan region of Kashmir and other northern areas, which now require special permission. The new rules would also ease travel restrictions on foreign journalists, Fawad Chaudhry said.
The new visa regime comes after some countries eased travel advisories on Pakistan in light of improvements in security. Pakistan was last a prominent tourist destination in the 1970s when the “hippie trail” brought Western travellers through the apricot and walnut orchards of the Swat Valley and Kashmir on their way to India and Nepal.
Since then, deteriorating security and the imposition of a harsh interpretation of Islamic laws has chipped away at the number of visitors. But security has since improved dramatically in recent years, with terrorist attacks down sharply in the country of 208 million people. The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation said last year tourist arrivals rose to 1.75 million in 2017, media reported.