ISLAMABAD - With fast changing modes of communications and publicity, nowadays social media has become an effective tool for tour operators to attract maximum number of both local and foreign tourists for scenic destinations located in different parts of the country especially northern areas. The dream of the present government to make Pakistan a tourism brand internationally is not far from becoming true as tourism industry has embraced digitalization to ensure increased connectivity between service providers and clients. The tour operators working across the country have termed the social networking sites a resourceful tool for sensitizing the travelers about world class tourist sites awaiting explorers.

The social media offering low-cost advertisement facility has transformed the tourism sector and discouraged the traditional ways of business promotion, Head of Adventure Island Club Jawad Ali Shah has told  APP.

“Now, there is no need to make brochures, cloth banners and arrange sessions to attract potential clients. This is the possible fastest and cost-effective way to reach maximum people,” he maintained. He said Facebook was charging minimum Rs 100 per day for placing an ad on it. The number of viewers of that ad could be doubled by paying more for an advertisement. The Facebook usually charged Rs 5,000 for an ad which was viewed by 100,000 people, he added. Apart from advertisement, the social media was also facilitating the tour operators to gather interested tourists on a single platform to plan different trips in groups, Jawad said. He said a record breaking number of tourists visited Pakistan in 2016 compared to the last decade (2005-2015) due to use of social media tool among tourist operators.

Secretary Alpine Club of Pakistan Karar Haideri said the social media played pivotal role in elevating tourism industry. It helped tourist promoters and tourists in getting updated about weather and roadcondition of any tourism destination. Besides, he said it educated tourists about the locals’ behavior, tradition, norms and cleanliness rules. The social media was also helpful in holding accountable the non-professional and seasonal businessmen, who were violating terms and conditions of tour package by not providing agreed facilities.

He said around one million tourists were visiting tourist spots across the country annually since 2016 after the digitization was embraced by this sector. Karar said social media had also some repercussions as mushroom growth of non-professional tour operators online was ruining the business of professional entrepreneurs. He underlined the need for tightening noose around such elements as they were bringing bad name to the industry.

The secretary said he was associated with this business for the last 30 years and informed that his club charged $ 500 for an affluent tour while the fake tourist operators asked for $ 200 Dollars for a sub-standard tour.

Sharing the example of Nepal, one of the most attractive destinations for adventure tourism, he said the country had managed to lure millions of tourists through a comprehensive marketing strategy.

The official sources in Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) said the government had allocated Rs 160 millionin the Public Sector Development Programme for 2019-20 to promote tourism and market tourist resorts at national and International level.

They said the PTDC and National Tourism Coordination board were formulating a strategy to spend Rs 120 million, out of 160 million, for marketing of the country’s tourist destinations across the globe.

A massive promotional campaign for tourism promotion would also be launched across the world, besides an International conference to be held on the subject, they said.

Promotional songs, videos and competition also mark the government’s tourism promotional strategy, they added.