Pillar 7
International Openness

Key Indicator : Visa requirements, Number of bilateral Air Service Agreements, Number of regional trade agreements in force

Policies that restrict travel to a country can discourage tourists from travelling to it. Openness to the world enables facilitating the travel of international tourists through the removal of obstructive policies. In terms of international openness, Pakistan is ranked 107 with a score of 2.2 in the T&T Development Report 2021.

In 2022, Pakistan increased its rank to 88 (90 in 2021) under World Openness Score.[145] The government promised to improve processes in the issuance of visas and the visa-on-arrival program.[146] In 2019, the government introduced a tourist-friendly visa policy that involved on-arrival visas for 50 countries (previously 24), e-visa for 175 countries, and business visa-on-arrivals increased to 96 countries (previously 64).[147]

The government has also abolished the requirement of No Objection Certificate (NOC) for foreigners, allowing them to travel freely across Pakistan.[148] With the current policies and measures taken to promote domestic and international tourism by the government, Pakistan is expected to see a rise in the number of visitors by nearly 30% until 2030.[149]

In 2022, Pakistan increased its rank to 88 (90 in 2021) under World Openness Score. The government promised to improve processes in the issuance of visas and the visa-on-arrival program.

Before the pandemic hit in 2019, the air passenger traffic was 4.1 billion for Pakistan.[150] Currently, Pakistan holds bilateral air service agreements with 97 countries susceptible to periodic renegotiations.[151]

The government is paying attention to the aviation sector of the country to improve bilateral and multilateral ties for improving national security. Through the National Aviation Policy introduced in 2019, the government aims to follow the strategy for open market access using bilateral air service agreements, which are grounded in organic market growth and the interest of the nation.[152] Moreover, a three-member committee has been established to review air service agreements between Pakistan and other countries with a focus on expanding flight operations as well as frequency and routes.[153]

The government has also begun issuing a Tourism Promotion and Regional Integration (TPRI) License for the growth of tourism and the strengthening of regional connectivity.[154] The first license was issued in 2020 to a Pakistani charter company, Aircraft Sales and Services (Pvt.) Ltd., which has been operating since 1976.[155] In 2021, the TPRI commercial license was granted to Alvir Airways, North Air (Pakistan), and start-up Kashmir Air. To uplift tourism and promote regional integration, the three airlines would operate from Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore to tourist spots such as Gilgit, Skardu, Gwadar, Turbat, and Mohenjo-Daro.[156]

Among its objectives to reinforce international trade, the government has talked of increasing regional trade, re-evaluating the nation’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs), and diversifying exports.[157] At present, Pakistan has 11 Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) in force which includes a bilateral trade agreement on goods between Pakistan and Indonesia, introduced in 2019.[158] The government has also initiated the second phase of the Pakistan-China FTA, which covers more than US$ 8.7 billion of Pakistan’s worldwide exports.[159]

Furthermore, Pakistan has drastically improved under the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) implementation index, from 35% in 2018 to 79% in 2020, which raised Pakistan’s ranking in the Trading Across Border Index from 136th to 108th in the Global Fund’s Annual Ease of Doing Business 2020 report.[160] In 2022, Pakistan and China have further deepened their economic ties with a number of new financial agreements which involve “bilateral cooperation in areas of economic and technical, industry, investment, infrastructure, space, vaccine, digitalisation, standardisation, disaster management, culture, sports, and vocational education.”[161] With the government moving to build strong global connections for ease in the movement of people, goods, and services in and out of the country, the tourism sector of Pakistan is inevitably moving in a positive direction.