Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Emerging Pakistan Campaign in London

Government of Pakistan has paid huge sums of public exchequer to a private bus company (London Double-Decker) to promote Pakistan in London. A month long campaign has been launched by opting for most expensive fully wrapped body stickers over iconic London buses. No stats available on cost of campaign as it happens in most 'deals' in ours. However, government sponsored Geo News has been flashing the campaign as a great step which was enough indicator to smell rat in the whole affair. 

Pakistan is undoubtedly, the most blessed country in the world in terms of geographic diversity and beauty. Yet, our tourism industry is barely breathing on meager returns of inland tourists which is less than peanuts when compared to its actual economic potential. Before we go out to introduce and invite people from the rest of the world, two areas need special attention; tourism industry and law-in-order situation in the country. 
Tourism industry is in dire need of some oxygen. Instead of  expensive and fancy campaign in London we might have to do some spade work on tourism reforms. Give subsidies to investors both home and abroad. Bring hospitality services at par with South Asians minnows of tourism like Sri Lanka and Maldives. Develop extensive communication infra-structure particularly in GB and Kashmir. In festive Eid summers like this year, inland tourists get stuck on the roads to the length of time that they run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere. It would be appropriate to coin example of Jordan. Its land is 95% arid. A country of 280 Kms of length (distance between Lahore and Islamabad is 380 Kms) and width of 54 Kms. Only one river Jordan flows in parts of Jordan as opposed to countless rivers, streams, springs, canals and reservoirs in Pakistan. Only a small desert of Wadi Rum 720 square kms whereas in Pakistan's four deserts are 2.20,000 square kms. Coastline of Jordan is mere 26 kms as compared to 1056 kms of Pakistani coastline comprises mostly of virgin beaches. There are few historic sights in Jordan which are not close to the numbers in Pakistan. There are no mountains in Jordan and list of mountain series in Pakistan is staggering. In short, there is practically no comparison between Pakistan and Jordan in terms of geographic beauty and diversity. However, there is one mind-boggling comparison, the tourism revenues. Jordan was visited by 8 million tourists in 2010 generating 3.5 billion USD and Pakistan attracted little over 5 lac tourists in 2013 generating only 298 million USD. Simple conclusion; there is no dearth of natural and human resource, we are just bad/ ill-willed managers.
Secondly, the law-in-order situation in the country is at best deplorable. High tide of terrorism may be receding but it still exists. Rather, its taking a horrible twist from generic extremist version to more violent sectarian type. Just last week we had two major terror incidents in Quetta & Parachinar making it obvious that there is a clear & present terrorist threat. Army is doing its best but lack of political will seems to be the only impediment to quashing terrorism in Pakistan.
Lastly, People in Britain are much more aware on situation in Pakistan. Anyone looking at double-decker will only have a laugh as our head of state is in London for summer vacations & we are trying to sell Pakistan's natural beauty to them. Seems like we are not fooling them but ourselves.

No matter how great is the natural beauty & resource, it still needs to be managed and we have the worst management track record. Better minds continue to settle in west for better economic opportunities leaving the country at the mercy of mediocre hustlers. Yes, that jinx of mediocrity. Think about how such campaigns are originated in our system. Some ambitious staffers in foreign office/ tourism hierarchy got this brainer for optic value of this campaign to those who matter. Whereas, its an uphill task to do spade-work on reforms etc. Same old short term mediocre solution that people apply to receive accolades for current tenure. By the end of the year, those smart heads may get promotions for ostensibly ingenious idea. Sadly, Pakistan will not benefit much from such stunts.
Those thousands of pounds we paid to a bus company could have gone in tourism industry or more importantly on improving law-in-order situation in Pakistan. Once situation is stable, then we may not even have to spend money on wasteful marketing campaigns. One foreign tourist who has a wholesome experience in Pakistan will become our marketeer and may convince hundred others to visit Pakistan. We need to bring our house in order before we invite people over. We need to think long term like nations think.
Only Allah knows the whole truth.