LAHORE - Tour cancellations have alarmed the stakeholders in tourism industry and hospitality business. The tourism season of Pakistan has begun but few foreign tourists are expected to visit this year due to political turbulence in the country and security threat. Last year was declared 'Visit Pakistan Year'. The Federal Ministry of Tourism set the target of attracting at least one million foreign tourists. It failed in the task and the number of foreign tourists visiting Pakistan in 2007 was even less than the number of visitors in 2006. This year too the number of foreign tourists is expected to fall if the political turbulence continued and more acts of terrorism occurred. The new government too has till now not announced any initiative to promote the tourism industry. Thousands of people attached with the tourism industry and hospitality business are worried about the situation. Trekking and tour operators in view of the decline in foreign tourists are concentrating on attracting local tourists from across the country to visit the scenic Northern Areas. "We have soaring peaks and secluded valleys of shimmering glaciers, flower strewn alpine pastures, ageless deserts and hundreds of miles of sunny beaches. Pakistan is only one country in the world, which can offer so many possibilities to each and every visitor. "The situation was all right till 2001. Later the number of tourist groups coming to Pakistan began to decline. We are one of the main tour operators but this summer till now we do not have more than eight to 10 groups coming over to Pakistan. These groups are mostly from Europe including Germany and Bulgaria. One Canadian group is also coming. Many groups cancelled their bookings after the blast near the Danish embassy. Let us hope there are no further incidents of terrorism this summer - the time when tourists from across the world visit Pakistan. "Due to cancellations of so many tours by foreign tourists we have begun to concentrate on local tourists and are advertising in this regard," Managing Director of Alpine Trekkers and Tours, Syed Akhtar Abbass stated this while talking to The Nation on Monday. "Swat used to be a popular destination but due to militancy there now it is no longer on the list of popular destinations. Chitral is closed for now due to heavy snow at Lowari Top but it is expected to open after June 15. The areas that are top on the list for tourism this year are Skardu, Gilgit, Kaghan and Niran. We have announced different affordable packages for families and groups and hope to attract local tourists from Karachi and other areas of the country," Abbas said. Managing Director Indus Tours Akhtar Memunka lamented that government was not playing its due role in the promotion of tourism. "We should learn from Sri Lanka and Egypt. They too have a lot of political turbulence and incidents of terrorism. But they have decided to give priority to tourism and do everything to ensure that it does not decline. Tourism brings quick dividends, which means foreign exchange. "Here in Pakistan nothing is done at government level to promote the tourism industry. Earning foreign exchange through tourism has never been the thrust of governments here. ZA Bhutto gave it importance but none followed it up. India opened up to tourists much later that are in 1978 but we continued to ignore it. Today India earns billions in foreign exchange through tourism while we are nowhere near even though we have ideal tourist spots and locations that are to be found nowhere else in the world. It is a pity we have failed to showcase our beautiful country to the world," Memunka said.