Pakistan is blessed with all sorts of natural beauty. Northern area takes pride of high mountain ranges with jewel of second highest peak on crown. Geography of country start with beautiful mountain ranges run through lush green plains, diverse deserts and ends at marvellous coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Less than three thousand kilometres one cannot observe such beauty with diversity, it has no parallel in world of tourism. In addition to natural beauty Pakistan is also bless with many religious places for different religions especially for Buddhism and Sikhism. Pakistan is home to many old statues of Buddha. Buddha has huge following from across the world especially from China, Japan etc. Sikh religion has most sacred places in Pakistan and on top of all tomb of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religions, is in Pakistan. Despite such diversity and attraction Pakistan was never able to develop the sector on sustainable basis. It has been victim of neglect or experimentation without discrimination of government. Governments kept on shifting sector from one ministry to another.Story of poor management started with the creation of country. Tourism was considered one of the departments of Ministry of Railway till the year of 1955. Government in 1955 decided to bring the tourism under ministry of commerce and it remained there for next 9 years. After nine years of parking government once again decided in 1964 to look for new home for tourism. This time office of Chief of Civil Aviation was decided new home. In 1972 government brought tourism under the Ministry of Minorities, Religious Affairs and Tourism. In 1976 the sector again brought back to Ministry of Commerce. In 1977 tourism came under Ministry of Culture, Sports, Tourism, and Archaeology. Once again in 1996 tourism became part of Ministry of Culture Sports, Tourism and Youth Affair. First time in history of Pakistan, in 2004 it was declared a full-fledged ministry. Unfortunately, it could only stay for few years, as Eighteenth Amendment abolished the Ministry. Eighteenth Amendment devolved the tourism to provinces, now provinces are at forefront to manage tourism.In addition to this game of shifting, tourism sector also remained policy less till 1990. Pakistan presented first ever policy after 43 years of its creation. This policy gave some direction to sector as it gave sector the status of industry. It also brought in private sector as a major player. MTDF, building on policy, further promised to give boost to sector. Second and last policy of 2010 just before, devolution again promised to modernize the sector according to world standard. Despite all these efforts, tourism sector is still waiting for revolution, as it was promised in different documents. Tourism is still an underdeveloped sector, especially in comparison to its potential. Apart from institutional, policy and shifting game it also severely lacks infrastructure and services. Most of the tourist sites are even without basic infrastructure. Famous tourist sites even do not have good quality restaurants and hotels. People have to survive on minimal standard of living which are discouraging signs for the development of tourism. Access to tourist sites is another major issue. Many beautiful sites in northern areas are un-accessible due to bad infrastructure. Even, the infrastructure in plain areas or in deserts is also very poor.Tourism is still an underdeveloped sector, especially in comparison to its potential. Apart from institutional, policy and the shifting game it also severely lacks infrastructure and servicesOn other hand service sector is also in a sorry state of affairs. The most poor sectors in service sector are tourist guides, travel services and facilities at destination like ICT services etc. Guides are not well trained and lack the skills of engagements and marketing. They simply take it as guided travel to take people from one place to another place. Tourism agencies most of the time act simple travel agents. They are not familiar with the concept of tourism management, marketing, advertisement and related sectors. Lack of coordination between service providers and regulators further complicate the situation. As a result, despite the tremendous potential Pakistan is still at very low level in terms of tourism industry. Present government wants to overhaul the tourism sector in Pakistan. Prime Minister of Pakistan is personally taking interest in promoting the tourism. PM has established a special task force to formulate the right set of actions and promotion of tourism. PTI government in its tenure in KP did a wonderful job to revive the tourism in province. Now PM wants to replicate the model at national level. But, the situation at national level would be entirely different as compare to province. Government will have to look into issues of provincial coordination, revamping of services sector, modernization PTDC, marketing strategy and promotion of Pakistan as tourism destination at international level.Services sector requires a complete overhaul according to international standard. Pakistan will have to invest heavily in hostelling services, travelling infrastructure, guides, ICT, and security of tourists. Right now, Pakistan severely lag behind in hostelling services. Staff is not well trained to serve the client except the few big hotels or restaurants. They are randomly picked from the community and employed at hotel without any training. Although the trend is changing in big cities but still there is need of huge investment. Cooking at most of the hotels, especially near the tourist sites is another issue of concern. Cooks are not aware of standards of cooking and hygiene. They need proper training for meeting the international standards.Tourist guides plays a key role in engaging tourists. Good communication skills are required to be good guide in addition to information about the history and value of place. Across the world there are institutes which provides these skills to potential candidates for tourist guides. Pakistan needs to build partnerships with those institutes to bring Pakistani tourist guides to the level of international standards.In addition to the service sector, Pakistan also needs to upgrade and empower the PTDC in Pakistan. PTDC is currently governed by government servants from different ministries. They do not have any sort of tourism experience or understanding. They run the PTDC like any other department of any ministry. Most of the time top leadership of PTDC function on ad hoc basis. Therefore, the cooperation could not deliver on its promised objectives and goals.Government must change the structure of PTDC. Leadership must be selected on the bases of experience in tourism sector and related services sectors. Cooperation must be run like a cooperation not as government department. It must be strengthened and make accountable against certain targets. Especially there is need of a major improvement in marketing department of PTDC. Marketing department is crucial to attract the international tourists. Right now, performance of marketing wing is not up to make. Government, for any meaningful intervention, will have to strengthen the wing of marketing. Game has changed from the old school of activities. Now, promotion material alone does not serve the purpose. There are number of other options available to utilize for running a successful marketing campaign.Reforms in these sectors will not only help to attract traditional tourist but also religious tourists. By devising a comprehensive and tourist friendly tourism policies Pakistan can benefit a lot.However, to introduce these reforms Pakistan will need huge investment in terms of finance. Fortunately, Pakistan has a window to benefit in the form of CPEC. In long term plan of CPEC it is one of the areas for cooperation. Pakistan can exploit that opportunity especially in the context religious tourism and present Buddha’s places as point of entry for Chinese people. Secondly Pakistan can build partnership with Chinese province Guiyang, as it is investing hugely on developing tourism. Point of entry can be GB from Pakistani side, as there are many similarities between two provinces. Thirdly, Pakistan can also benefit from private sector investment, even from West and other regions. Eco-tourism in areas of GB and coastal areas of Balochistan can be another area of intervention on this front. Although private sector’s role is being in discussion from 1990s but still there is not concrete steps to make them partners.Last but not least, would be strong commitment, which is obvious now, and financial support will determine the future of tourism in Pakistan. Development of tourism will help to consume huge number of uneducated youth with minimum investment which will contribute to alleviate poverty. However, government must think out of box and give space to new ideas and innovators. Traditional thinking and business as usual will not help to improve the condition of tourism sector. Therefore, tourism task force needs to be innovative but practical in its suggestions and action plans.The writer is Director Research Uptake and Business Development, Sustainable Development Policy InstitutePublished in Daily Times, December 23rd 2018.