- Number of tourists visiting Pakistan to double to two million by 2025
- Experts say tourism witnessed a boom in past few years, trend likely to continue
The number of tourists visiting Pakistan will double to two million by 2025, Jovago Pakistan, a hotel booking portal, told Pakistan Today, quoting a report by the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC).
Sharing details, the company said that about 3,78,000 local and international tourists were entertained by Pakistan in 1995 and the number increased to nearly one million in 2010.
Jovago, a subsidiary of Germany’s Rocket Internet, has been growing its business in Pakistan’s tourism sector, its main target market. Since latest and exact number for local tourism isn’t publicly available, the company said it has been working on a report to calculate the actual size of the market.
According to an estimate by the PTDC, 50 million local tourists would travel within the country on short trips on weekends this year. However, the data for 2010 indicates that the actual number of tourism-related visits may be much lower. But, industry experts say local tourism has been witnessing a boom for the past few years and the trend is likely to continue.
Several factors are responsible for this boost in tourism, experts say, adding one of the major reasons being the improvement in law and order situation across the country. The security operations in different parts of Pakistan have helped increase local tourism considerably.
“We started our operations in the northern areas of Pakistan only last year and saw a tremendous response. Every five minutes a hotel was booked out,” said Nadine Malik, Jovago Pakistan’s managing director.
“This year more properties are being signed up with Jovago mainly because of the improved security situation of tourist destinations,” she said.
New properties being constructed for tourists and more hotels and resorts being signed up with Jovago is the evidence of the forthcoming boom in the market.
Initially, the portal had only 100 hotels and guesthouses registered with it. However, only within six months of its launch, the number climbed up to 1,500. At present, Jovago is connected with 2,000 hotels in 160 Pakistani cities.
Jovago entered Pakistan in May 2014 with only four employees. Currently, the company has 50 employees, which include 24 travel advisers, who serve the clients round the clock.
According to Nadine Malik, Pakistan has a huge offline market which can be brought to the online platform with some effort. However, that has many challenges associated with it, she added.
For instance, Jovago faced a lack of interest from the market initially as people were unaware of the potentials of online marketplace. In addition to this internal friction, Jovago also faced difficulty in locating local hotels and guest houses as they had not been listed.
“At the beginning, it was very difficult for us to convince hotel owners to register with us. However, with the passage of time, as we gained popularity, they started contacting us on their own to submit their hotel details to be added to our online directory,” Malik said. “We traveled city to city, took rickshaws and asked the drivers to take us to the nearby hotels or guesthouses. We found places and convinced the owners to link up with our website,” she added.
The team at Jovago captures images of every property and uploads to the website. They take pictures of the rooms, receptions, rest rooms and parking lots and put them on the website without photoshop-ing them.
“Since many online businesses are already short of credibility, uploading edited images can affect our brand name gravely,” the MD said. “Seeing something else on the website and finding it otherwise when one goes to the location can cost us our clientele. We also put pictures of all our new properties on Google Maps so that people can find them easily,” added Nadine Malik.
The unfamiliarity of digital market among conventional businesses remains a major hurdle for Jovago, but, the company has worked its way around the issue and has made a mark in the market.
If a hotel is down on the list, the owners contact Jovago to better their rankings. “We demand them to improve the quality of service in order to earn a chance to appear on the front page,” said Malik.
Jovago does not have a lot of online competition. If any competition comes, it stops operating only within two or three months of the launch, Malik said. “Jovago has more offline competitors than online ones. For example, relatives and friends influence new visitors by telling stories of their previous visits and refer them to their own tour operators,” she added.
“We want to replace offline competitors and become the only place to get information about hotels and guesthouses by providing excellent services,” Malik said.
Although the tourism scene has improved in the past years, one must not forget the hurdles that are still faced by tourists while visiting several destinations in Pakistan.
“In northern areas access is a big problem: flights get delayed or canceled every now and then. Roads to these areas are in very poor conditions,” said Malik, adding that “government should invest in the infrastructure and marketing. It should participate in international exhibitions to show the world what we have for them.”