Islamabad : The closure of tourism, travel and hospitality industry since March due to surge in coronavirus has incurred around Rs800 billion direct loss to the national exchequer while rendering around 3 million people jobless, experts said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in the first week of June to lift restrictions on the tourism sector after consultation with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan governments in a bid to revive economy for the local populace, but the administrations of these federating units are yet not willing to implement the instructions.
Fida Muhammad Nashad, Speaker at Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly, said that jobs of millions of people in the northern region was directly linked to the tourism industry, but this coronavirus has rendered them jobless.
He said that around fifty million plus domestic tourists visit the picturesque areas annually, contributing to around Rs800 billion to the national exchequer.
By 2025, the government predicts tourism will contribute Rs1 trillion to the Pakistani economy, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Experts said that hotels and restaurants catering to the tourists were affected heavily by the closure as only five-star category hotels have 4,200 rooms with over 14,000 employees to maintain and take care of them, along with the guests.
They said that only five-star category hotels were contributing to over Rs30 billion to the national exchequer annually, while thousands other employees directly employed by over 100,000 restaurants were also jobless due to the coronavirus closure.
Despite a clear announcement by Prime Minister Khan to open the industry, the provinces are yet not ready to open it, experts said, adding that this would ruin the local industry and economy.
They said that the gains made by the government in the last two years in the tourism industry are being rolled back with the current policy marred by confusion.
The experts said that only two months are left in the season, while local economy of the northern region depends on tourism. The money they make in these three to four months is used to cover their whole year expenses, but this year they are still waiting for the tourists to visit the scenic areas.
Pakistan closed all the tourist spots in March this year to prevent spread of the virus, but officials said this had hit millions of people hard in the KP and GB — two main hubs for domestic and international tourism.
Experts and tourism industry officials have urged the government to “immediately open the tourism spots” to revive the local economy and save jobs of millions of people linked to the industry.
They assured the government of fully complying the standard operating procedures [SOPs] to stem spread of the virus and ensure safety of the tourists.