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 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.

Meanwhile, Oil and gas Exploration and Production (E&P) companies received  571 licences during last 71 years and drilled 2,366 exploratory and appraisal/development  wells, yielding around 330 discoveries. According to official data about the country’s exploration history in oil and gas sector, as many as 40 licences were awarded to E&P companies in first ten years of Pakistan’s inception from 1947-57. The companies drilled 21 exploratory and 22 appraisal/development  wells.

During a period from 1957-67, as many as 60 licences were  granted under which the companies drilled 74 exploratory and appraisal/development wells. While, around 51 permits were issued from 1967-77 and E&P  companies drilled 30 exploratory and 26 appraisal/development wells. From 1977 to 1987, as many as 29 licences were awarded and the companies spud 84 exploratory and 230 appraisal/development wells.

During a period from 1987-97, around 126 licences were granted and the companies drilled 205 exploratory wells and 255 appraisal/development wells. As many as 170 licences were issued from 1997-2007 and the companies spud 241 exploratory and 383 appraisal/development.

In a period of 2007-2018, around 95 licences were granted and the companies drilled 381 exploratory and 514 appraisal/development wells.

Meanwhile, a senior official in the Petroleum Division told APP that the incumbent government was pursuing an effective strategy to step up oil and gas exploration activities in potential areas.

Since long, he said, the country could not find any major oil or gas discovery, which was causing fast-depletion of existing reserves, while ever-increasing energy needs of the country were being met through import of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), terming them instant but temporary solution.

He said the country was facing shortage of around three to six billion cubic feet gas per day (BCFD), which was being met through imported gas. Existing gas production is less than four BCFD.

With an aim to accelerate exploratory efforts, he said, the government was planning to create a new exploration zone in potential areas of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan.

Currently, he said, the country had been divided into four exploration licencing zones, consisting of West Balochistan-Pishin-Potowar Basins, Kirthar, East Balochistan-Punjab platform-Suleman Basins, Lower Indus Basins and Indus & Makran Basins.

The country’s total existing sedimentary area is around 827,268 square kilometers (KM2), out of which 320, 741 KM or 39 percent of the area is under exploration.