In 2010, the world’s largest travel guidebook publisher — Lonely Planet — termed Pakistan as tourism’s next big thing. Unfortunately since then, the tourism industry in Pakistan has seen nothing but decline.
There are a number of factors which have contributed to this dismal state of affairs when it comes to Pakistan’s tourism industry. It has suffered from strict policies to natural disasters and internal organizational conflicts to terrorist activities.
Seeing the need to arrest this decline and to formulate a plan for the revival of the tourism industry in the country, Serena Hotels Pakistan, recently hosted a National Tourism Conference in Islamabad, inviting all stakeholders to do their part before it’s too late.
Importance of National Tourism Conference
The conference featured multiple stakeholders who vowed to make all efforts to address issues faced by Pakistan’s tourism industry. It proposed solutions for stakeholders and the Government both so that they can work together to improve Pakistan’s economy through sustainable tourism.
The fundamental objective of the conference was to discuss opportunities and challenges faced by Pakistan’s tourism industry and come up with new ideas. The underlying goal behind the talks was to create a lasting collaborative relationship amongst everyone.
Pakistani diplomats and government officials were also invited to the conference, seeing as how the government itself is a majority stakeholder in the tourism industry. Without their involvement, there can be no meaningful or long-lasting change or reform.
In addition to government functionaries, various tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers, airline representatives and many others associated with the industry also attended the conference.
Summary of the Event
The event kicked off with an introductory address from CEO of Serena Hotel, Mr. Aziz Boolani.
Here’s what he had to say:
The Pakistan tourism industry has an important role to play in both economic development of the country and the sustainable management of resources. The industry has an excellent asset base in Pakistan’s spectacular ecological, historical, and cultural offerings.
It has the potential to provide far more employment opportunities for the youth and assist in economic development for communities than it does currently. The conference was about how the public and private sector can work together to make tourism its full potential.
There were three panel discussions organized by the management which shed light on local and international tourism and proposed a way forward.
- First Panel Discussion:
The first session of the conference addressed Pakistan’s Tourism resources and potential. Panelists included Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, IUCN, who gave a brief presentation of Pakistan’s Ecological and Landscape Attractions; followed by Ms. Salima Hashmi, Educationist, who spoke of Contemporary Diversity and Material Culture in Pakistan; subsequently followed by Mr. Aftab ur Rehman Rana, STFP, who presented the various possibilities of National Tourism Policies and the session concluded with Mr. Sheikh Ansar Aziz, Mayor of Islamabad, who highlighted the importance of Destination Branding.
The moderator, Ms. Sidra Iqbal, took questions from the audience
- Second Panel Discussion:
The second panel discussion focused on Provincial Tourism Potential and Strategies where the Secretary Tourism for Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, KPK, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir shared the unique aspects of tourism in their areas.
- Third Panel Discussion:
The third discussion addressed The Way Forward lead by Mr. Mustansir Zakir, Chairman PHA, then Mr. Sajjad Shah, Chairman PATO, who suggested key challenges and opportunities followed by Mr Hanif Rinch, Ex-Chairman TAAP, who shared the roadmap for the future of travel industry. The discussion concluded with Mr. Sami Baig District Manager PIA and Mr. Arshad Ali from PTDC arguing the challenges facing the industry.
The Chief Guest on the occasion was Mr. Sartaj Aziz, the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs. At the inaugural session, Mr Sartaj Aziz mentioned that Pakistan tourism industry has the potential to play an important part in the national economy and the country is blessed with ample assets.
The speakers in the inaugural session included Mr. Anthony Cholst, Acting Country Director at World Bank, Ms. Vibeke Jensen UNESCO’s Representative to Pakistan and Mr. Iqbal Walji, Group President at Walji’s Family of Businesses.