Pakistan eases visa rules to ‘heaven for tourists’

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Above, the Baltit fort in Karimabad of Pakistan’s northern Hunza valley. (AFP)
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Government figures show that tourist arrivals rose to 1.75 million in 2017. Above, tourists enjoy the snow at the hill resort town of Murree, northeast of Islamabad. (Reuters)
Updated 25 January 2019
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Pakistan eases visa rules to ‘heaven for tourists’

  • The reforms, approved by the cabinet, would open up a new era for the tourism industry
  • Tourist arrivals rose to 1.75 million in 2017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has loosened travel restrictions in the hope of reviving tourism by offering visas on arrival to visitors from 50 countries and electronic visas to 175 nationalities, the government said on Friday.
The reforms, approved by the cabinet, would open up a new era for the tourism industry, which was devastated by violence after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US, Minister of Information Fawad Chaudhry said.
“We have mountain tourism, we have beach tourism,” Chaudhry told reporters in Islamabad, referring to Himalayan peaks and Arabian Sea beaches seldom visited by foreigners.
“Pakistan is a heaven for tourists.”
Chaudhry did not identify the countries that would benefit from the new rules but in December, he told Reuters that citizens of most European countries would be granted a visa on arrival.
Tourists would also be allowed to visit the politically sensitive Himalayan region of Kashmir and other northern areas, which now require special permission.
The new rules would also ease travel restrictions on foreign journalists, Chaudhry said.
The new visa regime comes after some countries eased travel advisories on Pakistan in light of improvements in security.
Pakistan was last a prominent tourist destination in the 1970s when the “hippie trail” brought Western travelers through the apricot and walnut orchards of the Swat Valley and Kashmir on their way to India and Nepal.
Since then, deteriorating security and the imposition of a harsh interpretation of Islamic laws has chipped away at the number of visitors.
But security has since improved dramatically in recent years, with militant attacks down sharply in the mainly Muslim country of 208 million people.
The state Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation said last year tourist arrivals rose to 1.75 million in 2017, media reported.


ThePlace: Fifa Mountains in Jazan

Photo/Colors of Saudi
Updated 15 February 2019
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ThePlace: Fifa Mountains in Jazan

The stunning mountains in Jazan remain one of Saudi Arabia’s most popular tourist attractions. Part of the Sarawat range, the dense forests that cover the jagged rock formations create a green blanket of natural beauty on the backbone of the Arabian Peninsula. The mountains are characterized by their towering peaks, terraces, and coffee and maize fields.