Welcome to Pakistan: Islamabad to issue tourist visa ‘on arrival’ for 24 countries

A view of the picturesque town of Skardu town in Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan region. (Twitter photo)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Welcome to Pakistan: Islamabad to issue tourist visa ‘on arrival’ for 24 countries

ISLAMABAD: “Tourists welcome to Pakistan,” Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority tweeted over the weekend, unveiling the country’s renewed visa-on-arrival policy for group tourists from 24 countries – a decision praised by the Pakistan Tourism and Development Corporation (PTDC), which its officials had been pursuing for years to expand the tourism industry.
PTDC official Mukhtar Ali, who manages policy and promotion, told Arab News: “This policy was issued with consultation of all stakeholders. It was done in 2007 also but the deteriorating law and order situation impacted the policy which was reversed and a case-to-case visa grant procedure was applied. But the situation has changed now.”
The tweet came after a notification from the interior ministry to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) immigration wing to relax entry for nationals arriving from “tourist-friendly countries,” if the “tour is organized through designated tour operators” in Pakistan.
After arrival, tourists are required to meet an immigration officer for further information and must furnish relevant documents and sign official forms before the granting of a visa.
The FIA can issue a multiple-entry 30-day visa on arrival to nationals of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, China, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Iceland, Korea, Portugal, Singapore, Thailand, and Luxemburg.
Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor, managing director of the PTDC, said: “We will focus on overseas Pakistanis and foreign tourists during the year 2018. Visa policy for foreign tourists is required to be reviewed to facilitate more tourists from across the world.”
Ghafoor said that the British Backpacker Society has ranked Pakistan among the 20 top travel destinations for 2018.
Missing from the list are countries of the Middle East and Africa, among others.
“The number of Arab nationals (visiting Pakistan for tourism) is very low. We have focused on tourist-generating countries based on our statistics and the majority come from the West and elsewhere. A large number of them are those that seek mountaineering and adventure tourism,” said Ali.
He said tourism has been increasing gradually over the years but after 2013, after military operations to cleanse militancy and terrorism, the influx has jumped. In 2017, an estimated 1.7 million foreigners visited Pakistan, which is 200,000 more than the previous year, Ali added without specifying the number of tourists and business-related visitors.
Nasir Hussain, owner of Karakorum Explorers, a leading tour operator in Islamabad, told Arab News: “Individuals not part of a group can also visit and link up with a tour operator for discovery trips, safaris, or adventures.” He is enthusiastic that revenue will come to the tourism industry, which has faced losses since 9/11.
He said most of his customers are from European countries but “it would be good to have tourists from the Middle East, though not many travel for tourism or holidays to this destination.”
Pakistan is also allowing a 30-day single-entry business visa on arrival for 68 countries, including the Middle East. A letter of invitation from a Pakistani business entity is required, attached with a recommendation letter from a trade association or Chamber of Commerce and/or one from an investment counsellor or commercial attaché in Pakistan’s Mission Abroad.


Floods close airport in Indian tourist hotspot of Kerala

Updated 17 min 18 sec ago
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Floods close airport in Indian tourist hotspot of Kerala

KOCHI: Flights in and out of the Indian tourist hotspot of Kerala were canceled for three days Wednesday as severe monsoon flooding ravaged the region.
At least 39 people have been killed in the past three weeks and more than 50,000 displaced in an area famed for its palm-lined beaches and tea plantations.
Authorities have opened the gates of 34 reservoirs as water reached dangerous levels.
Hundreds of villages have been flooded and the military has been called in to help with rescues.
More than 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state, officials said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office announced on Twitter that Kochi International Airport — the main gateway to the region — would be closed until Saturday “due to heavy rains and resultant flooding.”
A Kerala State Disaster Management Authority official said that the death toll was expected to rise.
A heavy rainfall “red-alert” has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people, the official added.
“Our state is in the midst of an unprecedented flood havoc,” Vijayan said earlier this week. “The calamity has caused immeasurable misery and devastation.”
The US embassy last week advised Americans to avoid Kerala, which drew more than one million foreign tourists last year, according to official data.