Pakistan courts Thai tourists

Pakistan is not the first place that springs to mind as a likely holiday destination. But Pakistani officials are attempting to overcome the country’s negative image and promote its Buddhist cultural heritage, in a bid to attract more Thai visitors.

A Buddha figure on a stupa base in Taxila city, Pakistan. (Photo: Tayyab Mir/Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation)

Nayyer Hussain Bokhari, chairman of the Pakistan Senate, met with Thailand's ambassador to Pakistan, Marwin T Attanawin, at Parliament House in Islamabad to discuss the issue on Thursday. 

According to Pakistan’s Daily Times, he told Mr Marwin that Pakistan wants to further strengthen its relations with Thailand on tourism, trade and cultural affairs. 

Mr Bokhari said that while many Pakistanis visit Thailand – around 56,000 last year – far fewer Thai people made trips to Pakistan. 

Though tourism in Pakistan is on the rise, only 2,618 Thais visited the country in 2008. Mr Bokhari urged Thai citizens to consider Pakistan as a holiday destination. 

“Thai tourists can visit in various groups,” he said. ”Local administration and ministry of religious harmony and cultural integration can be involved to facilitate them.”

Mr Marwin replied that Thai people are “very much interested in visiting Buddhist sites in Pakistan,” adding that efforts to encourage tourism between the two countries would be “taken up through diplomatic channels.”

A delegation of Thai officials will visit Pakistan later this month, to build on bilateral ties. The visit follows a trip at the beginning of this year, when Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul expressed the desire to enhance cooperation between the two countries in areas including trade, education, tourism, science and technology, security and counter-narcotics. 

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn also visited Pakistan in March 2012. 

The Thai delegation due to visit Pakistan later in the month will visit Taxila city to see Buddhist relics from the Gandhara civilisation.

The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation describes Gandhara, in the Peshawar Valley, as “the cradle of Buddhist civilisations”. 

Related search: Thailand, Pakistan, Buddhist, tourism, Gandhara

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