The World Travel and Tourism Council Report 2017 places Pakistan at 136th position in the world in terms the tourism industry’s contribution to the GDP. In the aftermath of the eighteenth constitutional amendment, in Pakistan tourism has become a provincial subject. This means without promotion of tourism, particularly in the larger province of Punjab, its impact on the national economy and poverty reduction potential cannot be realized. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism can spur economic growth in developing countries and it can help in poverty reduction — particularly if tourism activity takes place in rural areas. This signifies that development of tourism in developing countries perfectly fits in with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).Local economic opportunities and employment generation can effectively help in decelerating rural-urban migration, which causes urban slums to grow and the proliferation of poverty in cities. The inflow of foreign tourists to Pakistan has drastically declined in the aftermath of 9/11. Dr. John Mock, co-author of Lonely Planet’s Trekking in the Karakoram and Hindukush, wrote in 2013 that the ‘arc of international tourism in Pakistan has changed dramatically, and it is not easy to be a tourist in Pakistan’. According to a 2009 report by the Ministry of Tourism, most of the foreign tourists visiting Pakistan are low-revenue tourists — mostly overseas Pakistanis travelling on foreign passports to visit their families and they do not spend much on boarding and lodging. High revenue foreign and domestic tourists contribute in economic growth of any destination. In such a scenario it is a challenge for all the provincial governments to develop tourism as an engine of economic growth. At the moment, Punjab presents a promising outlook due to factors like better communication infrastructure, a more satisfactory security situation and the diversity of its cultural and natural assets. Culture, history, religion, adventure, eco-tourism and recreation opportunities are broad areas which define the tourism potential of any region. Due to the size of its own economy, Punjab constitutes the bulk of the national economy. Tourism development in Punjab can eventually bolster national economic performance. In this perspective, a SWOT analysis of tourism as an economic factor can help in identifying the key intervention areas. Punjab presents a promising outlook on tourism due to factors like better communication infrastructure, a more satisfactory security situation and the diversity of its cultural and natural assets Punjabi culture is a blend of diverse sub-cultures representing sub-regions like Cholistan, Potohar, east, central and southern parts of the province. From Alexander’s invasion and the resistance of the valiant Porus, to the legendary engineering marvels of Sir Ganga Ram, the province’s history has much to attract both domestic and foreign tourists. Khushab, Thal and Cholistan deserts are some of the most attractive places for adventure lovers and eco-tourism. A big strength of Punjab is its importance as a religious tourism destination as it is home to many of Hinduism and Sikhism holiest sites. Unfortunately we don’t only have strengths; there are some weaknesses as well. The UNWTO reports that recreation and leisure tourism constitute a major chunk of global tourism. Despite having large urban centres, the recreational and entertainment services in Punjab are not likely to attract foreign leisure tourists. Similarly, despite better security conditions in the province, the global security perception of Pakistan has taken its toll on development of tourism in Punjab. There are opportunities as well. On purchasing power parity basis, Pakistan is a comparatively low cost tourism destination. This advantage can be harnessed to attract more foreign tourists. According to the UNWTO, since 2012 the number of Chinese outbound international tourists has risen to the highest in the world, followed by American, German, British and French tourists. In 2016, Chinese tourists spent $261 billion on foreign travel. Chinese tourists’ destinations included Japan, Thailand, Europe and the US. This reveals that the world’s largest tourism market is China, but Pakistan has not been able to attract even one percent of this market. Recent initiatives in the public sector like Chinese language training courses can prove highly beneficial here. Once the influx of Chinese tourists begins, local youth can be employed as Chinese speaking tourist guides and hospitality professionals. Due to better security perception and aggressive marketing of their cultural and natural assets, other South Asian countries, having comparable cultural and natural assets, can capture Chinese and Western tourist markets. This constitutes a threat to the underdeveloped tourism sector both at the national and provincial level and justifies a clarion call for action now. This SWOT analysis testifies that despite several challenges there are tremendous opportunities, particularly the big Chinese market, religious tourism and the growing domestic market. The challenge is to convert this potential into real economic dividend. Capturing foreign tourist markets, including the Chinese, should remain a high priority objective because with greater spending capacity on leisure tourism, foreign tourists can give much required impetus to the provincial economy. Creation of favourable conditions to attract foreign tourists depends on substantial private investment in the hospitality and entertainment sector. Cultural tourism offers the promise of economic activity and poverty reduction in rural Punjab. Folk festivals and Punjabi village life can be showcased as cultural tourism attractions. The Cholistan Jeep Rally and Lahore sight-seeing tourist bus service are models of successful intervention. Each district in Punjab possesses a historical, cultural and natural asset which implies that each district can be developed as a unique tourism product. Development of packages, products and proper marketing within the country and abroad are required but it is the private sector which should steer this with government facilitation. Needless to say, tourism is a cross-cutting economic activity both vertically and horizontally. Despite devolution of tourism to provinces, there are important issues in the federal purview like regulation and facilitation of the hospitality sector, visa policy, railways and aviation related matters which need active partnership between both tiers of government. Horizontal partnerships among provincial entities are no less important. The writer is a development policy analyst Published in Daily Times, February 18th 2018.