LONDON: The British Backpacker Society has welcomed decision by Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) to approach the relevant government officials with a request to review the country’s visa policy for foreign tourists and to make it easier for them to acquire visas.

Samuel Joynson, co-founder of the British Backpacker Society, told Geo News that it was encouraging that in light of Pakistan topping their recent adventure travel rankings for 2018, the PTDC is urging the Government of Pakistan to streamline the country’s tourist visa policy.

Recalling his experience of applying for a Pakistani tourist visa in London for his recent visit, Joynson said that “unfortunately, the process for obtaining a Pakistani tourist visa is currently one of the most arduous on earth, and can take weeks to complete.”

In London, it is necessary to provide a 7-page application form (which must include, amongst many other details, an applicant’s travel history, details of parents and even blood group), bank statements, work reference letters, invitation letters (with a copy of the relevant tour operator’s official registration with the Government of Pakistan) and a detailed schedule for each visit, and, even then, approval can take up to 6 weeks to obtain from the date of submission.

Adam Sloper, co-founder of the British Backpacker Society, added that “obtaining a letter of invitation from an official tour company is particularly undesirable for independent tourists, as finding a tour company willing to sponsor independent backpackers can be expensive, time-consuming and unpredictable. If Pakistan is serious about welcoming international travelers to Pakistan, it is critical that the Government removes this requirement.”

They said that over recent years, other South Asian nations such as India, Nepal and Bangladesh have liberalised their requirements for tourist visas, and have enjoyed substantial boosts to their tourism sectors.

Each of these countries have scrapped the requirements for prospective tourists of many nationalities to obtain physical visas from an embassy prior to travel, and have instead introduced facilities for visas to be issued at international airports (in some cases with prior approval via an e-visa system) or at some international border crossings.

Joynson noted that “historically, Pakistan offered a visa-on-arrival service for many international tourists, and, with such a system in place, it is no coincidence that the Pakistani tourism industry once benefited from far more international visitors than it does now.”

Adam commented that “the return of a tourist-visa-on-arrival system for independent international tourists would be the biggest boost for international tourism in the country in a generation” and implored the government to consider this option.

Two weeks ago, the British Backpacker Society said that they declared Pakistan to be the world’s leading adventure travel destination because Pakistan’s mountainous scenery is the most stunningly beautiful and has no comparison in this world.

The society said that Pakistan offers the “real, genuine travel experience” and Pakistan’s northern areas, its peaks and mountains are amongst “the most beautiful places on this earth.”

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