Monday, August 22, 2016

Pakistan's Travel & Tourism Industry Boom

Pakistan's travel and tourism industry is booming with significant improvement in security situation. In 2015, it contributed 7% of Pakistan's GDP.  It includes foreign and domestic travel and tourism spending or employment in the equivalent economy-wide concept in the published national income accounts or labour market statistics.

There are are multiple indicators showing this industry will contribute more this year. Growth in air travel and hotel occupancy are among the top indicators of travel and travel and tourism industry growth.

Pakistan Hotel Occupancy Source: Express Tribune

Hotel Occupancy:

“The rate of hotel occupancy has surged to 80% across the country compared to 35% before the current calendar year started,” said Beach Luxury Hotel Director Business Development Rehan Wahid, according to report in the Express Tribune newspaper. “Hotels in Islamabad and Lahore are fully booked most of the days. However, this is yet to happen in Karachi,” he said.

Thanks to the ramp-up of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor  (CPEC) related projects, Gwadar is leading the way for new hotel construction with permits issued for least 5 new 5-star hotels so far in the new port city.   These include a 250-room hotel apartment project of the management of Pearl Continental Hotels and another one of the Bahria Group. Gwadar Airport growth of 73% was the fastest of all airports in Pakistan.

Air Travel: 

Pakistan air travel market is among the fastest growing in the world.  IATA (International Air Transport Association) forecasts Pakistan domestic air travel will grow at least 9.5% per year, more than 2X faster than the world average annual growth rate of 4.1% over the next 20 years. The Indian and Brazilian domestic markets will grow at 6.9% and 5.4% respectively.

Pakistan saw 23% growth in airline passengers in 2015, according to Anna Aero publication. Several new airports began operations or expanded and each saw double digit growth in passengers. However,  Gwadar Airport growth of 73% was the fastest of all airports in Pakistan.

The top 12 airports all saw large double digit increases. Multan  grew 64%, Quetta 62% and Faisalabad +61% all climbing one place as a result of all of them seeing a growth of over 60%. Turbat Airport in Balochistan is the newest airport to reach the top 12 in terms of traffic.

Security Situation: 

The key reason for travel and tourism boom is significant improvement in the security situation since the launch of Pakistan Army anti-terror campaign called Zarb-e-Azb. Civilian deaths have been cut from 2,378 in 2011 to 412 this year until August 14, 2016. Total number of deaths, including civilians and security personnel, have been reduced from 11,704 in 2009 to 1232 so far in 2016, according to South Asia Terrorism Portal (
Terrorism-Related Deaths in Pakistan Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal


Hotel occupancy rates have risen from just 35% in 2015 to 80% this year. Air travel is growing rapidly with IATA forecasting Pakistan to be among the world's fastest growing air travel markets. All airports in the country, including several new ones, are seeing double digit increases in the number of passengers flying in and out of them. Improved security since the start of Operation Zarb e Azb and political stability are underpinning growing confidence in Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Sees Robust Growth in Consumption of Energy, Cement and Steel

Politcal Stability Returns to Pakistan

Auto and Cement Demand Growth in Pakistan

Pakistan's Red Hot Air Travel Market

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor FDI

Mobile Broadband Subscriptions and Smartphone Sales

Pakistan in MSCI Emerging Market Index


Anonymous said...

Good to know, this is the result of stability that is returning to Pakistan. Let's see how this rattles the neighbors.

Riaz Haq said...

Li Ka-Shing’s 2nd #Pakistan Container Terminal to Start Operations at #Karachi Port Soon via @markets

Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Port Holdings Ltd. is set to start its second Pakistan terminal after a five-year delay, giving mega vessels access to the coastal city of Karachi for the first time.
Hutchison’s terminal operations in South Asia’s second-largest economy will commence before the end of this year, as agreed with the Karachi Port Trust, the company said in an e-mailed reply to questions on Monday.
Li’s company, a unit of his Hong Kong-based flagship CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd., is tapping into expanding growth in Pakistan as China plans investments valued at $46 billion in power plants and road projects. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is targeting an annual growth rate of 7 percent next year as the country is set to complete an International Monetary Fund loan program next month.
“Pakistan has been lagging behind big time and now we are moving into the future with this terminal being one of the deepest in the region,” Abid Butt, chief executive officer of Karachi-based freight company e2e Supply Chain Management Ltd., said by phone. “The port can become a transshipment location given India is congested and located better than Dubai’s Jabel Ali.”
Hutchison Port shares gained 1.2 percent to 0.440 Singapore dollars as of 9:01 a.m. in Singapore trading. The stock was down 18 percent this year as of the close Monday.
Karachi Delays
More than half of the nation’s total trade is done through transshipment, said Butt. However, roads around the port in Pakistan’s biggest city will need to be expanded to accommodate cargo from the world’s largest ships, he said.
South Asia Pakistan Terminals Ltd. will handle as much as 1.7 million twenty-foot equivalent units a year and increase the nation’s container handling capacity by more than half, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the plans are private.
Hutchison’s port will begin operations in the last week of October and will aim to handle 250,000 twenty-foot equivalent units in the first year of operations and increase that to more than 2 million in five years, the person said.
The commercial operations of the terminal with a depth of 16 meters was initially expected to start in 2011, four years after the agreement. Bureaucratic wrangling and a slowdown in road construction and dredging delayed the port operator’s plans, the person said. Some road works and dredging are still not complete, the person said.
‘Leftover Dredging’
“Most of the work is done and the leftover dredging and road work will be complete before the launch,” said Shafiq Faridi, spokesman for the Karachi Port Trust said by phone.
Pakistan handles about 2.5 million twenty-foot equivalent, including Hutchison’s first venture Karachi International Container Terminal that started in 1998.

Riaz Haq said...

How technology killed #Pakistan’s historic red light district of Heera Mandi in #Lahore

Pakistan’s oldest red light district was for centuries a hub of traditional erotic dancers, musicians and prostitutes - Pigalle with a Mughal twist, deep in the heart of vibrant Lahore.
But as an e-commerce boom revolutionises how Pakistanis conduct the world’s oldest profession, locals say the historic Heera Mandi district is under threat.
Balconies where beautiful women once stood are now empty, while rust eats away at the locked doors of vacant rooms. The only stubborn hold-outs are shops selling instruments that once facilitated the aperitifs of music and dance.
Men now can book a rendezvous online through escort websites or even directly with women over social media, instead of searching out streetside solicitation.
With location rendered meaningless, sex workers like Reema Kanwal - who says the business “runs in my blood” - have abandoned Heera Mandi.

The district, whose name translates as “Diamond Market”, is close to the echoing, centuries-old Badshahi Mosque.
During the Mughal era, the empire that ruled most of India and Pakistan in the 15th and 16th centuries, Heera Mandi was a centre for mujra, traditional singing and dancing performed for the elites.
The wealthy even sent their sons to the salons of tawaifs, high-class courtesans that have been likened to Japanese geishas, to study etiquette.
Later, when the British came, distinctions between courtesan or mujra dancer and prostitute were blurred.
Dance and sex became intertwined, and Heera Mandi began its long slide into sordidness - but even so, Reema remembers “glorious” days.
Reema’s mother and grandmother were also prostitutes, making her part of Heera Mandi’s generations of women who danced and pleased men in the market.
“People used to respect the prostitutes of Heera Mandi, we were called artists,” she says - but all has changed over the last decade. “Now we don’t have any honour.”
She blames the loss on a rush of girls without her family background taking up the profession who have not been taught “how to treat people” the way she has.
Diamonds in the rough
Such girls, she says, need nothing to market themselves but a mobile phone, with which they can advertise on Facebook or Locanto, some offering services over Skype for as little as 300 rupees ($3).
Dozens of escort services with online bookings claim to serve thousands of clients in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
In a deeply conservative Muslim country where prostitution is banned and sex outside marriage is criminalised, one website says it caters to roughly 50,000 customers.
With the old traditions falling by the wayside, girls also no longer need an entourage of musicians and teachers, say the owners of the music shops that are the final remnants of old Heera Mandi.
The intricate mujra dancing that was such a foundation of the red light district required years of teaching and live musicians. Now girls learn easy but provocative dance moves via YouTube.
“They take a USB or sometimes they don’t even need that, they have songs in their cellphones, they plug a cable and play the music,” laments Soan Ali, one of the music shop owners.
Like Reema, Ali’s family has also been in Heera Mandi for generations, and he proudly recalled his father’s “hospitality” as he attempted to lure clients for his mother.

Riaz Haq said...

Over 1 million visitors in Pakistan's Northern Areas this year.

More than one million domestic as well as foreign tourists visited Northern Areas during the current season to enjoy adventure tourism.

The ratio of tourists increased by 25 percent as compared to last year due to the measures taken by the government for improved law and order situation in those areas," said Mukhtar Ali, Manager

Policy and Promotion of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC).

He said that Pakistan has a great potential for adventure toursism, adding that the country has the world highest mountains in knot of four great mountain ranges, the Hindu Kush, Pamir, Karakoram and the Himalayas.

He said that the country has the distinction of having five peaks above 8,000 meters each including the second loftiest mountain of K-2.

He said that the country also has the largest glaciers on the globe outside the polar region, adding that these mountains and glaciers offer a tremndous attraction for adventurers.

He said that in current season, number of domestic tourists as well as increased, adding that PTDC is planning to further streamline facilities for tourists in various destinations.

Mukhtar Ahmed said that PTDC is in consultations with provinces for devising joint strategy for improving tourism sector.

He said that about one million tourists visited the northern areas during this summer season.

He said it is a good sign that the people are visiting tourists points without security especially Naran, Ayubia, Swat, Gilgit and Skardu.

Replying to a question, he said PTDC has a chain of 39 motels and three restaurants, which are providing best facilities to the tourists.

He said,"We are providing international level boarding and lodging facilities to the visitors."

Riaz Haq said...

#Uber taxi hailing service rides into #Karachi, #Pakistan this week after successful launch in #Lahore via @markets

Uber Technologies Inc. is set to start its ride-hailing service in Karachi this week as the security situation in Pakistan’s largest city improves.
The San Francisco-based company will offer both cash and electronic methods of payment and will operate in areas with very few incidents of violence such as Clifton, Saddar Town and Korangi, according to Zohair Yousafi, who’s spearheading Uber’s expansion in Pakistan. The company started in Pakistan’s Lahore city earlier this year.
“Pakistan has been really incredible,” Yousafi said in an interview on Tuesday. “Lahore has been one of the fastest growing launch cities in the region’s history. The potential Karachi brings just because of its massive population is huge.”
The on-demand ride service joins Dubai-based Careem in tapping demand in a city that has a population equivalent to that of Australia, and is recovering from decades of sectarian violence, bombings and kidnappings. Bomb attacks dropped 80 percent last year after peaking in 2013, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal.
“Three to four years ago they wouldn’t have even thought of Karachi but things are better now,” Saad bin Ahmed, chief executive officer of Karachi-based Alternate Research, said by phone. “Pakistan has an ever-growing urban population with rising income level. It’s about global presence for Uber.”
Karachi is the world’s seventh-most populous city, according to Demographia World Urban Areas. Uber attracted 65,000 riders and about 1,000 active drivers in Lahore in the second half of July, according to data provided by Uber.

Shams S. said...

Keep dreaming --- those 10% must be Sikh yatris, since the rest of the world decidedly avoids Pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

Shams: "Keep dreaming --- those 10% must be Sikh yatris, since the rest of the world decidedly avoids Pakistan"

More than a million tourists have visited Pakistan so far this year already. Hotels are almost full as are the airports. Air traffic is growing at double digits at all airports in Pakistan

Anonymous said...

Told you that this will not make the neighbors happy.

The worlds most insecured nation:

what a joke of a nation.

Positive comments about Pakistan is considered sedation, no wonder we see so many brain-dead people arguing with you.

G. Ali

r_sundar said...

How easy is it to get a tourist visa for a US citizen of Indian origin?

Jilani said...

Most western travellers use guides for info. No doubt Pakistan has exceptionally beautiful sites but these guides warn about security and no go areas. This from the WORLD TRAVEL GUIDE:

Shame then, that political instability and sectarian violence has made large parts of the country a no-go for tourists, and prevented Pakistan from realising its potential as a top travel destination.

Riaz Haq said...

Jilani: "political instability and sectarian violence has made large parts of the country a no-go for tourists, and prevented Pakistan from realising its potential as a top travel destination."

Security situation is improving with terror deaths down 80%-90% over the last few years.

Hence, the travel boom that Pakistan is experiencing.

Reality is getting better. Perception will follow.

Riaz Haq said...

This #Spanish woman visited #Pakistan and what she experienced was something absolutely beautiful … via @IndianExpress

Let’s be honest, when talking about our neighbouring country Pakistan, usually the first thoughts that come to mind are Kashmir, cricket, extremism, orthodox, politically charged and most recently, Balochistan. There may also be Fawad Khan, Atif Aslam, Ghulam Ali and amazing food somewhere down the list, followed by a quick smile. But it’s not very often that one thinks or talks of Pakistan on the lines of architectural beauty, warm people and untouched natural beauty.
Blame this on the “public image” that dominates any coverage on or around the Asian country. After all, it’s unfortunate how Pakistan usually makes it to international headlines for political reasons, which has contributed majorly to this image of unrest.
Something similar happened with Spanish woman Clara Arrighi when she was told by her company that she’ll have to stay in Pakistan for six months. In a Facebook post that has gone viral, she wrote, “When was told I was going to Pakistan I started to think about all the reasons not to go, how to convince my office not to send me. I did not want to spend the next six months of my life in between mud roads and traffic, dirt and smelly donkeys. I definitely did not want to share my time with radical people, extremists, and walk around all covered.”
But after staying there and experiencing what it means to be living in the country, she couldn’t stop crying while leaving. She fell in love with the beauty, heritage, food, and people of Pakistan who welcomed her with arms wide open.
“Everything in this country is untouched; the nature, the culture, the cities. Women in their colourful dresses and the way they allow their Pashminas to fall loose over their heads, showing their dark hair. Men playing cricket, such a refined English sport to be played in white clothes drinking high tea, is here the street sport by far, played in every corner of every street. I have climbed stunning mountains, swam in incredible clear lakes amidst the most beautiful hills, visited majestic mosques and drank uncountable types of chai. I tasted lots of different dishes,” she wrote.
Clara suggests everyone should visit the country at least once to experience a side of it that not many are aware of. “It doesn’t matter how beautiful a country is, you will always remember how it made you feel. And this is what makes the difference in Pakistan. I have never seen so much hospitality anywhere in the world. Incredibly warm people, genuinely kind. I have never felt so welcomed. There is this tendency to smile. A society that has been for so many years oppressed and still can be so tolerant,” wrote the woman.

Riaz Haq said...

Why #Pakistan's Stock Market Beats #China's And #India's via @forbes

Pakistan’s equity market has been outperforming China’s and India’s markets by a big margin in recent years. In the last twelve months, Global X MSCI MSCI +% Pakistan ETF was up 20%, beating India’s and China’s comparable ETF’s by almost two to one – see table.

That may come as a big surprise to some. Pakistan has been suffering all sorts of terrorist attacks, which makes it a very unstable country to put your money in. And it has been lagging behind both India and China in key macroeconomic metrics like GDP growth rates and unemployment—see table.

Index/Fund 12-month Performance 5-year Performance
Global X MSCI Pakistan (NYSE:PAK) 20% 400%*
IShares China (NYSE:FXI) 9.80% 16.00%
iShares S&P India 50 (NASDAQ:INDY) 12.77 % 33.0%
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets (NYSE:EEM) 5.38% 1.52%
*In local currency.

Source: Yahoo YHOO +0.98%. Finance and Karachi Exchange 9/5/2016

Pakistan’s, India’s and China’s Key Metrics

Country China India Pakistan
GDP $10866 billion 2074 billion $270 billion
GDP Growth yoy 6.7% 7.1% 4.24%
Unemployment 4.05% 4.9% 5.9%
Inflation Rate 1.3% 5.05% 3.56%
Capital flows -594 HML -$300 million -$1882 million
Government Debt to GDP 43.9% 67.2% 64.8%
What does the collective wisdom of markets see in Pakistan’s markets that others are missing?

A few things. First, terrorist attacks don’t usually affect financial markets, unless they are disruptive to trade, which hasn’t been the case in Pakistan. Second, Pakistan is a frontier rather than an emerging market, and therefore, favored by the numbers game. Third, its market reform efforts have been getting a couple of votes of confidence from overseas like $1 billion in support from the World Bank – and a couple of domestic acquisitions from foreign suitors like the acquisition of Karachi’s K-Karachi by Shanghai Electric Power Co. This has all been music to the ears of foreign investors.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s new private air carrier Serene Air to start flying domestic routes by year-end

Serene Air has been granted a licence by the air travel authority to establish a private airline in Pakistan, said sources in the aviation industry.

The airline would begin operations on domestic routes by November or December 2016, as per its plan submitted to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), stated a source, who remained involved in the developments.

PIA to lease 8 planes to upgrade fleet

“The authority granted Serene Air a licence in March 2016 to establish the airline with headquarters in Pakistan, however, the company has not yet been granted the Air Operator Certificate that will allow it to fly,” he said.

“The grant of the certificate is linked with the acquisition of aircraft mentioned in the business plan.”

He said airline officials were expected to fly to the United States to acquire five Boeing 737-800s, which would be bought with the approval of CAA officials. “The 737-800 is the latest aircraft of Boeing company.”

As per rules, the company is required to have at least three aircraft to establish an airline.

Serene Air will fly on almost all domestic routes, including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta and Multan. CAA rules say the airline can apply for an international licence if it successfully operates on domestic routes for over a year.

At present, there are three airlines that are already flying on domestic routes, of which one is state-owned – Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The remaining two – Airblue and Shaheen Air – belong to the private sector.

Passengers ‘damage’ PIA Premier aircraft

Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry Standing Committee on Aviation Chairman Muhammad Yahya Polani said Pakistan’s aviation industry had a huge potential.

“Pakistan should launch more airlines on domestic routes as the availability of more air carriers will spark true competition and benefit passengers with lower fares and improved service quality,” he said.

“All the three airlines operating on the domestic routes have less than 100 aircraft combined, which are below the required number to serve the nation with an estimated population of 220 million,” said Polani.

“The Turkish Airline has more than 300 aircraft for a population of 75 million. It covers over 1,500 destinations every day and what’s more is that its private sector airlines have even greater number of aircraft.”

Similar is the case with the United States’ United Airlines. It has over 1,000 aircraft that fly to 6,700 destinations every day while the United Arab Emirates airline flies to over 1,300 destinations every day and has a very limited population.

Riaz Haq said...

Remote northern #Pakistan village Gojal transformed by #education , #CellPhone, #Internet, new highway via @NatGeo

PASSU, Pakistan—Sajid Alvi is excited. He just got a grant to study in Sweden.

“My Ph.D. is about friction in turbo jet engines,” Alvi says. “I will work on developing new aerospace materials—real geeky stuff!”

Alvi’s relatives have come to bid him farewell as he prepares to leave his mountain village and study in a new country, some 3,000 miles away.

“We will see you again,” one of them says as they hang out in the potato field in front of Alvi’s house. “You know you won’t get far with a long beard like that. You look like Taliban!”

Alvi, dressed in low-hanging shorts and a Yankees cap, is far from a fundamentalist: He’s Wakhi, part of an ethnic group with Persian origins. And like everyone else here, he is Ismaili—a follower of a moderate branch of Islam whose imam is the Aga Khan, currently residing in France. There are 15 million Ismailis around the world, and 20,000 live here in the Gojal region of northern Pakistan.

I’ve been visiting Gojal for 17 years, and I’ve watched as lives like Alvi’s have become more common here. Surrounded by the mighty Karakoram Range, the Ismailis here have long been relatively isolated, seeing tourists but little else of global events. But now, an improved highway and the arrival of mobile phones have let the outside world in, bringing new lifestyles and opportunities: Children grow up and head off to university, fashions change, and technology reshapes tradition. Gojal has adjusted to all of this, surprising me every time I return by showing me just how adaptable traditions can be.

With these photos, I hope to add nuance to our understanding of Pakistan, a country many Westerners associate with terrorism or violence. People have suffered from this reputation, and many feel helpless in trying to change it. The Pakistan I’ve seen is different from that popular perception. I returned there this summer with my family and focused my attention on a young and forward-thinking community in Gojal, a place I know well.

I first came here in the summer of 1999. I was 25 and my girlfriend and I bought one-way tickets to Pakistan. We were looking for inspiring treks (the Karakoram Range has the highest concentration of peaks taller than 8,000 meters). Back then, we were among the roughly 100,000 foreign tourists to visit northern Pakistan each year.

We stayed for months, opening new passes, learning the language, and exploring the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, and Pamir. I kept returning, but over the years, I saw the number of fellow hikers plunge. The tourism department now records only a few thousand foreign visitors each year.

“Following the terrible September 11th attacks, anyone involved in tourism had to sell their jeeps or hotels; no tourists dared to come here anymore,” says Karim Jan, a local tour guide.

With each return visit, I noticed other changes. While outsiders were rare, the improved Karakoram Highway, now able to host vehicles other than Jeeps and 4x4s, brought in local tourists from south Pakistan, and southern cities became more accessible to the Wakhi.

Young men and women began leaving to study in these cities, and they came back for summer holiday dressed in new, hip fashions. Shops multiplied along the road, selling new spices, sugary snacks, and sodas. Biryani rice, a favorite dish from Punjab, now often replaces the traditional turnip soup or buckwheat pancakes during celebrations.

But despite what I’ve seen change on the surface, the spirit of Gojal is very much the same.