In recent years, Pakistan and China, have strengthened their friendship to a level where amplified people-to-people contact has become inevitable. The relationship has been further catalysed by the tourism sector, which become the cornerstone of their bilateral interaction. Both countries realise the importance of the potential in the tourism industry. The Pakistani government, in particular, has placed emphasis on tourism to enhance economic growth and increase its revenue streams. This proactive approach has resulted in a notable upswing in tourism-related activities between the two countries. Given China’s substantial investment in Pakistan, there exists a substantial opportunity for further growth in the hospitality and tourism sectors, attracting more foreign investors, and thus bolstering Pakistan’s economic landscape. Moreover, China’s easing limitations after the COVID-19 pandemic will benefit Pakistan in numerous ways, with tourism being a key facet of this mutually advantageous relationship.
Consequently, both countries are celebrating the 2023 Pakistan-China Year of Tourism, which will help strengthen their tourism industries. The interim Minister for State on Tourism during a ceremony for Pakistan and China Year of Tourism 2023 organised by the Pakistan-China Friendship Association of Khyber in collaboration with Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) reiterated that Pakistan’s friendship with China is “stronger than mountains, deeper than oceans, and sweeter than honey”. He maintained that travellers worldwide have been drawn to China’s old traditions and modern wonders. With a population of over 1.4 billion, Chinese people have shown an increased desire for local and international travel. China’s outbound tourists spent over 255 billion dollars before the COVID-19 outbreak. It displayed Chinese zeal for global exploration. Over 155 million Chinese tourists visited foreign nations in 2019, boosting host economies.
Both countries are celebrating the 2023 Pakistan-China Year of Tourism, which will help strengthen their tourism industries.
Given the Chinese tendency of mass tourism, Pakistan can also capitalise on this global avenue of attracting Chinese tourists and transforming Pakistan into a must-see destination for them. Pakistan has rich cultural and religious sites, breathtaking natural beauty, glorious history, and massive Buddhist heritage. For instance, Takht-i-Bhai in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has a unique and well-preserved glimpse into history while Mohenjo-Daro in Sindh is associated with the Indus Valley and its museum as shown in Table 1 below. Similarly, Gandhara art, which combines Hellenistic and Buddhist traditions, is magnificent throughout the country.
The renewed commitment to enhance tourism is the result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed for the tourism sector under the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) between Pakistan and China in 2021. As a result of the understanding, the Qingdao Tourism Association, the provinces of Punjab and Sindh, and the SCO tourism cities are set to build a cooperative mechanism. As the recent enhancement of the tourism-related cooperation is a consequence of the said MoU, Sindh and Punjab are the two regions that are specifically named in this agreement.
Both countries have great potential to benefit from each other in tourism. One important complementary aspect is the geographic proximity between Pakistan and China, which allows for affordable transportation and tour groups. It is anticipated that the completion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and other economic partnerships will create many opportunities in the coming decades. In a recent statement, the Cultural Consular of China, Zheng Heqing congratulated Pakistan for celebrating Pakistan and China’s Year of Tourism 2023 to enhance bilateral tourism. He said that China wanted to invest in Pakistan’s tourism business. As both countries have long histories of civilisations, Pakistan also has rich cultural and religious heritages. Furthering on the subject, he acknowledged that Gandhara tourism was quite popular in Pakistan. He noted that Pakistan was attempting to attract foreign tourists by ensuring a peaceful tourist environment.
Furthermore, the tourism partnership between China and Pakistan would promote cultural exchange by showcasing Chinese civilization and Pakistani culture. Pakistan’s northern regions are surrounded by three of the world’s prominent mountain ranges. The Karakoram, Hindukush and Himalayas. To facilitate the progress of the tourism industry under the China-Pakistan One-Step Tourism Platform, Pakistan has launched a tourism website for the Chinese audience this year.
Both countries have their own set of natural beauty that beholds the human eyes. Table 1 below shortlisted the areas that have great potential on both sides to cater to tourists to simplify the tourist attraction sites and designated sister cities between both countries.
Table 1: Tourist Attraction in China and Pakistan
Compiled by the author
The bilateral relationship between Pakistan and China has reached new heights following the launch of the CPEC. The geographic proximity of both countries is a significant factor in strengthening their tourism industries. Pakistan has the potential to attract a large number of Chinese tourists who make up a significant portion of global outbound foreign tourists. It can contribute to the economy of Pakistan. Most importantly, tourism avenues have the potential to bridge the gap in the cultural differences between both sides apart from providing economic benefits.