The Impact of Global Pandemic on Tourism Industry of Pakistan

Global pandemic impacting tourism industry of Pakistan


The tourism industry of Pakistan is one of the most impacted by the global pandemic. Pakistan has a huge economic potential in the sector with recent indicators showing positive growth in the industry. This blog presents the condition of the tourism sector before the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent impact of lockdowns and travel restrictions on the industry. Looking at the current trends in global travel and tourism, a way forward is presented for the tourism industry of Pakistan.

Research Questions

  1. What was the outlook for tourism in Pakistan before COVID-19?

  2. How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the tourism industry in Pakistan?

  3. What is the way forward for Pakistan?


Pakistan is blessed with unparalleled natural beauty and an abundance of historical and cultural sites. The country has a vast potential in tourism and hospitality, but the sector largely remains untapped. Various international organisations have highlighted this potential and ranked Pakistan among the top tourist destinations (The News, 2020). The tourism industry is an emerging market in Pakistan with the hospitality sector working as a bead in the chain of tourism-related activities. With the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and travel restrictions, the industry faced an almost complete shutdown. Pakistan took steps to enhance tourism by making tourist arrival comfortable and easy, relaxing visa policies, improving the security environment, and increasing tourism infrastructure. But disruptions in the global supply chain, travel restrictions, and fear of catching a disease which so little is known about led to one of the industry’s worst declines. Pakistan ought to take immediate steps to revive the tourism industry as both generate employment and contribute significantly towards the GDP.

The Tourism and Hospitality Industry Before the Pandemic

Pakistan’s tourism industry has faced major setbacks in the past, especially in the aftermath of the ‘war on terror.’ But efforts on the part of the government have greatly reversed the negative sentiment associated with Pakistan and its society and people. Foreign bloggers and celebrities consistently praise Pakistan’s natural beauty and the hospitality of its locals everywhere. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, Pakistan’s tourism industry in 2019 contributed 10.3 percent to the GDP and created more than 330 million jobs. While the global economy grew by 2.5 percent, travel and tourism grew significantly more at a rate of 3.5 percent. One out of four net new jobs were created by travel and tourism, and Rs 116 billion were generated in exports related to international visitors. Domestic spending increased by 93 percent in tourism which also shows that Pakistanis prefer travelling inbound compared to an increase of just 7 percent in international travel. Consequently, 87 per cent of this spending was related to leisure, while only 13 percent was related to business. Therefore, the tourism industry in Pakistan had a positive growth trend, and local and international interest in Pakistan contributed to this achievement. (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2020)

The Effect of The Global Pandemic on the Tourism Industry of Pakistan

After a phase of decline, Pakistan’s tourism industry was on the path to recovery with 2020 showing promise for exponential growth. The influx of foreign tourists was expected to increase as hotels, resorts, and airlines remained fully booked by the end of 2019. But by January 30th, 2020, the COVID-19 disease which originated in Wuhan, China, had been declared a global pandemic followed by travel restrictions all around the world and lockdowns in countries with high infectivity rates. Pakistan’s economy is highly dependent on agriculture, manufacturing, and service industries. Therefore, lockdown measures, prolonged quarantine procedures, and disruptions in global supply chains destructively impacted the tourism industry and related businesses. As flights got cancelled and hotel rooms got refunded, the largest hit came to those employed in the sector as massive layoffs, and job cuts were seen all over Pakistan’s major hotels and airlines. Pakistan’s hotel industry lost Rs 100 million by February 2020 alone due to a notable drop in the number of guests (The Express Tribune, 2020). Social distancing measures meant that people could not make use of restaurants, gyms, pools, and banquet halls, and a majority of travel agencies remained busy in bringing back Pakistani travellers from different locations. Pakistan already had a weak international tourist base, and the matter is now further exacerbated by weak healthcare facilities and lax following of SOPs in the country. Lastly, the decline in the tourism industry has also impacted areas where tourism is the main source of economic activity. The Northern areas of Pakistan and cities surrounding cultural and heritage sites have many businesses which depend on tourists. Therefore, the impacts of the pandemic have been largely devastating for the tourism sector.

Way Forward for Tourism Industry

Pakistan has immense potential to recharge the tourism industry and move ahead after facing multiple challenges due to the pandemic. Pakistan remains among the model countries which successfully fought the first wave of coronavirus infections and is also facing success in the handling of its second wave. The micro lockdown policy and economic stimulus to the lower end of the society greatly helped in times of economic stress. The country remained the first in the world to open its construction sector in the wake of the pandemic, thereby allowing for employment opportunities to those laid off in other sectors. Firstly, tourism largely depends on travel, and there should be a proper strategy for the implementation of SOPs and covid testing. Passengers travelling from abroad should be made to quarantine, and all the necessary arrangements should be made to facilitate the process. Sanitation facilities must be ensured in all tourism-related activities. Since much of the world has now adopted online work and education models, social media must now be extensively used to promote tourism and related activities to generate interest. Pakistan should also aim to regulate travel agencies which make unfulfilled promises to potential visitor and ruin the overall image of the country. Lastly, image building is a vital part of engaging and inviting foreign tourists. Pakistan should highlight its cultural heritage through art, music, and collaborations with international media houses. Using Pakistani sites in upcoming films and documentaries will also generate much interest in the country’s tourism sector.


The global pandemic has wreaked havoc on many sectors of the economy, but travel and tourism remain the most affected. Pakistan’s tourism industry showed strong indicators of exponential growth before the pandemic. The country was steadily building its positive image and travellers, and tourists from all around the world flocked to Pakistan. The coming of the pandemic proved to be a sharp dent in Pakistan’s progress. Only if Pakistan steps up to the challenge and implements strategies to promote its tourism industry along with providing a safe environment, will it be able to regenerate tourist traffic in the future.


The Express Tribune. (2020). In Pakistan, the tourism industry feels corona fever. Retrieved from The Express Tribune:

The News. (2020). Forbes names Pakistan among the top 10 underrated travel destinations for 2020. Retrieved from The News:,travel%20destination%20in%20the%20world.

World Travel and Tourism Council. (2020). Pakistan 2020 Annual Research.



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IMARAT Institute of Policy Studies

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