Although travel to some parts of Pakistan are unsafe, Jules Verne has unveiled a group tour of the country featuring female-centric NGOs, truck painting and traditional singing. Olivia Palamountain reports.
Interest in travel to Pakistan is booming, with revenue from tourism to the region expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2027) of 6 per cent compared to a worldwide annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2027) of 4.4 per cent.
This burgeoning appetite for holidays in Pakistan is fuelling a boom in escorted tours, with package holidays and group trips making up the market’s largest market segment, rising to a projected value of US$1.3 billion in 2023.
Capitalising on this uplift is Jules Verne, which has launched a “Mughals, Mystics and Mountains” tour of Pakistan, which offers the chance to experience the beauty and history of this relatively untapped the region in the comfort and safety of an expert-led group trip.
Pakistan plays a key part in Jules Verne’s heritage. The company was the first to escort Western groups across the Karakoram Mountain range, from Pakistan to China over the Khunjerab Pass, back in 1983.
Jules Verne’s general manager, Debbie O’Neill, says: “With Pakistan set to be one of the top travel destinations of 2023, we’ve worked with local tour guides to carefully curate the perfect tour of Pakistan.
“We are proud to launch Jules Verne’s new small group escorted tour that gets to the heart of the country, culture and people with genuine, authentic experiences. It includes breathtaking landscape, heartfelt local interaction and the most wonderful hotels in Pakistan”.The Jules Verne’s “Mughals, Mystics and Mountains” tour will visit Lahore, where Mughal Emperors once held court, modern Islamabad and the remnants of the Gandharan Buddhist civilisation at Taxila, the scenic and isolated region of Skardu, the alpine lakes at Kachura and the Hunza Valley, tucked away in the rugged north with its own rhythm, culture and traditions.
Highlights will include a food tour of Lahore; a Qawali evening experience (Sufi Islamic devotional singing); a Wagah border ceremony; truck painting; a visit to Khaplu Women’s Vocational Training Centre; a polo match and player meet-up; a visit to a female-run carpet weaving centre; and a meeting with the Hunza Women’s Social Enterprise (NGO).
Jules Verne trips have a maximum group size of 16 and are usually led by two guides; tours never exceed an 8:1 customer to guide ratio, with the aim of experiencing nature and local culture in an intimate setting and with personal attention.
O’Neill says: “We differentiate ourselves by focusing on the details. The places, the transport, the short stops, the meals and accommodation are opportunities for us to make each travel experience a little bit more enjoyable. We integrate elements of local culture in the form of stays at historical forts, local cuisine and immersive travel experiences within the arrangements.”
What about safety? (Globetrender has observed a trend in “Red Zoning” trips to high-risk destinations.) O’Neill tells Globetrender: “Pakistan is a country for the experienced traveller. We need to be sensitive to local traditions and beliefs – here, culture is varied and vibrant, albeit conservative and we should remember that religion dictates and influences culture at almost every level.
“There are security issues in more remote areas of the country, but after years of struggle with violence and terrorism, many places in Pakistan are now safe for locals and foreigners alike.
“You can travel independently within Pakistan, but our view is the safest and least challenging way to travel, is as part of an organised group, travelling with a reputable tour operator, in the company of local experts, and on an itinerary that has been thoroughly researched.”
Dates, departures and prices for Jules Verne’s “Mughals, Mystics and Mountains” tour Departing from London Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic
June 2: £4,895
September 8: £4,995
October 6: £5,195