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Potential for Maritime Tourism in Pakistan Highlighted

December 9, 2023

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

NIMA hosted the event at the Pakistan Maritime Museum.

In the past, Pakistan saw a higher volume of naval tourism in the 1970s than it does today. Numerous sailing boats used to ply the port, providing a place for both foreigners and families to spend their evenings. He began by describing the former situation, in which pollution had essentially turned the Karachi harbor into a drain; there were no longer boat races, and the majority of the huts were dilapidated. There used to be weekly sailing regattas, the Keamari boat basin and Clifton beach were clean, and low-income people would swarm for picnics and swimming there.

“With a population of about 20 million, a city like Karachi is starved of affordable and beach-based activities,” he remarked. “China tourism has a lot of potential thanks to CPEC.”

It was also stated that despite possessing miles of sandy beaches, a coastal highway, warm waters, mangroves, and lagoons, Pakistan only received 1% of the $31.4 billion in tourism earnings from international visitors in South Asia in 2017. India benefited the most, as foreign visitors spent $21 billion there. This was caused by the lack of any good lodging, dining options, or other amenities in the area, as well as the constant requirement for NOCs for various reasons that made travel to Pakistan exceedingly challenging.

NIMA faculty member Naghmana Zafar gave a talk about promoting maritime tourism through the blue economy. She made the point that, with a predicted global growth rate of more than 3.5% annually, coastal marine tourism is expected to be the most valuable sector of the ocean economy by 2030. “There is a duty and an opportunity to promote sustainable tourism here,” she stated, pointing out that the top five markets for tourist exports in 2018 were the US, China, Japan, Germany, and the UK, which together accounted for 47% of the worldwide GDP from travel and tourism.

Seaside five-star hotels are recommended.

More five-star hotels along the shore, like the storied Beach Luxury Hotel, are needed, according to Azeem Qureshi, corporate director of sales at Avari International Hotels. He claimed that there was a tonne of potential for sport fishing and other water sports, like jet skiing, hang gliding behind a speedboat, and scuba diving, all of which required to be properly marketed.

The head of the Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan, Aftabur Rehman Rana, stated that in order to preserve our stunning marine environment, we must learn how to advance community-based coastal eco-tourism.

Introducing herself as a research traveler, Dr Nuzhat Khan of the National Institute of Oceanography stated that unexplored opportunities exist in coastal tourism. She said that people should be aware that Do Darya is more than just a place to eat by the sea. “You will perceive the migratory birds from Siberia as tiny paper boats drifting on the water if you view these locations through my eyes,” she remarked.

Asif Bhatti, president of the Native Islander Fishermen Association, highlighted the importance of boats in coastal tourism by pointing out that the waters in this area stink from marine pollution and that there used to be fishing boat races and sailing boat races here. These events have since stopped. In addition to saying that the loss of the mangrove forests here was harming the local ecosystem, the terrain, and the marine life, he stated that “we, the local fishermen, need to promote our local dishes to attract tourism here.”

When Section 144 was implemented to prevent people from entering the water during the monsoon season, Farhan Farooq of Divers Reef Karachi claims that many forget to lift the ban afterward, which causes issues for those like him who provide snorkeling facilities.

As the chief guest for the occasion, retired vice admiral Asaf Humayun, concluded by saying that although we have upgraded our roads and highways to reach the northern regions, we haven’t done much to increase accessibility to our beaches. “We should have a one-window operation for licenses 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 said while adding that he was appalled at the attitude of the DHA for blocking people’s access to the beach. “We ought to speak out against this,” he declared.

Potential for cruise ships

He added that it was crucial to consider how to allow cruise ships to dock in Gwadar and Karachi. He declared, “If we clean our ports, we can do it too. The Mumbai port is already open for cruise ships.” Cruise ships depart from the port of Mumbai and head towards Oman. You must provide attractions for them if they are to stop for two days in Karachi or Gwadar. This would aid your economy by providing a consistent flow of income. He stated, “There is a significant area related to the cruise industry that we are missing out on.

He also disclosed the necessity of working diligently to clear out islands near Karachi, namely the Bhit and Baba islands. “They are really overcrowded right now, so we can develop them for tourism provided we make some room on them,” he said, proposing to move the ship-breaking business from Gadani. “It needs to be reclaimed because it is spoiling a beautiful beach,” he declared.

It was said that the purpose of the conference was to include all parties involved in maritime tourism. NIMA acknowledged their unvarnished opinions, but it also pledged to support them and move things in the right direction.

Mr Khawar discussed the Maldives, a nation that has made significant strides in the tourist industry, and he drew comparisons between it and other stunning locations with enormous tourism potential, like Pakistan’s coastline region, the mud volcano of Balochistan, and the Hingol National Park.

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