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Potential for Maritime Tourism in Pakistan Highlighted

August 18, 2023

KARACHI: “Maritime tourism is the fastest-growing industry in the world, but here in Pakistan, where we have 700 miles of incredible beaches, the beachfront is shrinking for the common man,” said retired Vice Admiral Syed Khawar Ali Shah, director general of the National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), in his keynote speech at a one-day seminar on the “Potential of maritime tourism development in Pakistan.”

On Thursday, NIMA hosted the event at the Pakistan Maritime Museum.

It was said that the seminar was held to involve all parties involved in maritime tourism. While acknowledging their unvarnished opinions, NIMA also pledged to support them and move things along.

Mr. Khawar discussed the Maldives, a nation that has greatly benefited from tourism, and compared it to other stunning locations with excellent tourism potential, such as the Hingol National Park in Balochistan, the mud volcanoes, and the Pakistani coastal region.

“Up until the 1970s, Pakistan saw higher levels of maritime tourism than it does today. In the past, there used to be a large number of sailing boats in the harbour where both locals and visitors would spend their evenings. The Keamari boat basin and Clifton beach were clean, where low-income people would swarm for picnics and swimming, and the more affluent had huts at Sandspit, Hawkesbay, and Paradise Point,” he said before presenting the current situation, in which pollution has essentially turned the Karachi harbour into a sewer; there are no longer boat races; and most of the huts are dilapidated.

“A city like Karachi with a population of around 20 million is starved of affordable and beach-based activities,” he claimed. Chinese tourists have a lot of potential thanks to CPEC.

It was also said that despite possessing miles of sandy beaches, a coastal highway, warm waters, mangroves, and lagoons, Pakistan only made up 1% of the $31.4 billion in South Asian tourism receipts spent by international visitors in 2017. With $21 billion in spending from overseas visitors, India benefited the most. This was due to the lack of appropriate lodging, dining, or other services in the area, as well as the constant requirement for NOCs, which makes Pakistani tourism particularly challenging.

A NIMA faculty member named Naghmana Zafar spoke about fostering maritime tourism through the blue economy. With an expected global growth rate of more than 3.5% per year, coastal marine tourism is predicted to be the greatest value-adding sector of the ocean economy by 2030. She said that the US, China, Japan, Germany, and the UK were the top five visitor export markets in 2018, accounting for a combined 47 percent of the worldwide travel and tourism GDP. “So it is an opportunity as well as a responsibility for promoting sustainable tourism here,” she said.

Five-star Hotels Along Coast Suggested

More five-star hotels like the storied Beach Luxury Hotel are needed along the shore, according to Azeem Qureshi, corporate director of sales at Avari International Hotels. He claimed that this area had enormous potential for sport fishing and other water sports like scuba diving, hang gliding behind motorboats, jet-skiing, etc., but they needed to be promoted effectively.

The head of Pakistan’s Sustainable Tourism Foundation, Aftabur Rehman Rana, stated that we must learn how to encourage community-based maritime ecotourism in our stunning marine environment.

Coastal tourism is an untapped resource, according to Dr. Nuzhat Khan of the National Institute of Oceanography, who identified herself as a research traveller. She claimed that anyone considering travelling to Do Darya should be aware that the destination entails more than just eating seafood by the sea. The migratory birds from Siberia will appear as tiny paper boats floating on the sea if you see these sites through my eyes, she remarked.

Asif Bhatti, president of the Native Islander Fishermen Association, drew attention to the importance of boats in coastal tourism by stating that there used to be sailing and fishing boat races here, but they have since stopped, and that the maritime pollution in this area is so bad that the waters stink. He added that the degradation of the mangrove forests here was harming our ecosystem, the terrain, and marine life. “We, the local fishermen, need to promote our local dishes to attract tourism here,” he stated.

According to Farhan Farooq of Divers Reef Karachi, anytime Section 144 is used to prevent people from entering the water during the monsoon season, the prohibition is never later lifted, which causes issues for individuals.

Finally, the primary guest for the event, retired vice admiral Asaf Humayun, noted that while we have improved the highways and roads to reach the northern regions, nothing has been done to make our beaches more accessible. He added that he was appalled at the DHA’s attitude for preventing access to the beach, saying “We should have a one-window operation for licences for boats, etc., a one-window operation for handling issues of security and a one-window operation for providing coastal facilities and activities such as water sports, food and hospitality.” He declared, “We ought to speak out against this.

Potential for Cruise Ships

Additionally, he stated that it was crucial to consider how to make Karachi and Gwadar accessible to cruise ships. “The Mumbai port is already open for cruise ships, and we can do it too if we clean our ports,” he remarked. “Cruise ships departing the port of Mumbai travel to Oman. You must develop attractions for them if they are to stop in Karachi or Gwadar for a two-day stay, since this will provide you with a regular flow of income to support your economy. There is a significant area related to the cruise industry that we are overlooking, he said.

Read More: Islamabad- The Touring Capital

He also mentioned the urgent necessity to focus on decongesting the Baba and Bhit islands, which are nearby Karachi. He also suggested moving the ship-breaking industry from Gadani. “They can be developed for tourism provided we make some room on them as they are really overpopulated right now,” he remarked. He declared, “It is ruining a lovely beach that needs to be reclaimed.”

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