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ISLAMABAD, Nov 27 (APP): National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) Chairman Syed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari Friday told the global tourism forum that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government had relaxed visa policies to facilitate the tourists from multiple countries to visit picturesque attractions, located across the country.

“The first thing we did in first three months of our government is that we simplified our visa regime, which was ‘so stringent’ and it was very difficult for foreigners and Pakistanis living abroad to come back if they only have a single passport of any other country,” he said while addressing the ‘Recovery And Beyond’ conference, arranged by the Global Tourism Forum at Istanbul, via video link.

He said his country had introduced online visa facility for more than 120 countries and visa-on-arrival for five countries, adding, “We are still now even streamlining that further as well so it would be much easier process, which will really open up the door.”

Zulfikar Bukhari, who also holds the portfolio of Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, said the British Airways and other international airlines had resumed their operations in Pakistan after the hiatus of a decade, reflecting that the country is safe and secure destination for tourists.

He said earlier, the foreigners were required to obtain No Objection Certificate for traveling from one city to another, adding “We have abolished that rule and now they can roam freely anywhere they want in the country.”

The NTCB Chairman said since the tourism was a devolved subject in Pakistan so a national coordination board was formed by Prime Minister Imran Khan who felt the need for making unified efforts to promote tourism holistically.

Zulfikar Bukhari said a ten-year road-map, coupled with a five year action plan, had been formulated to invigorate tourism industry by ensuring maximum utilization of its huge resources for sustained economic growth, poverty alleviation and reduced social inequalities.

He said tourism authorities and integrated zones were being created in various provinces to ensure availability of international level facilities to the visiting tourists.

The chairman also mentioned an initiative, planned by the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, to promote the country tourism as a customized brand across the globe.

He said the country tourism potential could not be underestimated as its domestic tourism was booming due to a large size of its population, comprising a youth bulge, in addition to 10 million diaspora living across the globe.

Zulfikar Bukhari said it must be kept in mind that the countries like Turkey and Thailand took a long time to gain the status of popular tourist destinations.

He said the scenic tourist sites of Pakistan had become a center of attraction at international arena and hopefully its tourism sector would boom in 2021, he added.

“This year a record number of local tourists have visited Pakistan and Insha Allah next year a record number of international tourists from all over the world will come to Pakistan to enjoy the attractive tourist destinations here,” the chairman remarked.

“Pakistan is far safer country now,” he said while expressing the hope that the country would host the World Tourism Forum and D-8 summit next year.

The chairman said despite the coronavirus epidemic, 25 to 30 new hotels were being set up to provide high quality dining and accommodation facilities to the tourists.