2019 has been a remarkable year for the hospitality & tourism industry in Pakistan. Many milestones have been achieved with success. These milestones started with a vision of the current government to develop and promote tourism as one of its key economic drivers with an aim to build this segment contributing to Rs. 1 Trillion to the economy by the year 2025. The phenomenon of sustainable, responsible and eco-tourism were introduced based on successful tourism models of other countries like Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and the Philippines which displayed the success of creating sustainable growth in this industry.
For the first time, there were numerous tourism conventions arranged across the country in 2019 to bring the tourism stakeholder community at platforms together to look at opportunities and challenges holistically to find solutions and the way forward to development. The Pakistan Travel Mart, Tourism Dialogue, Pakistan Tourism Summit, and the Pakistan Hospitality Show were key events that took place in 2019 to create awareness, opportunities, and promotion of industry’s public-private partnerships.
A revamped web portal of PTDC was launched to promote tourism and create an information gateway for tourists
It is important to know that after the 18th amendment in the constitution of Pakistan, the Federal Ministry of Tourism was devolved in 2010 and PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Cooperation) started working under the federal government to develop and promote tourism. However, the challenges in financial assistance from the federal government and PTDC’s limitations of implementing the framework and promotions at the provincial level left the industry unfocused and undefined.
In November 2018, the government took the first major step of creating a National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) to bring harmony among provinces, regions, and territories. The NTCB since its inception worked towards the framework, policies, and opportunities to revive the industry through focusing on domestic & international tourism and creating a national brand to attract investment to develop the sector by promoting religious, adventure, medical and heritage tourism across Pakistan.
In March 2019, NTCB announced the restructuring of PTDC in an attempt to give provinces and regions empowerment to form their own tourism strategies around their assets. The new visa policy of providing an online visa facility to 175 countries with 48 countries visa on arrival was implemented to boost international tourism.
A revamped web portal of PTDC was launched to promote tourism and create an information gateway for tourists. Pakistan Tourism Development Endowment fund (PTDEF) of Rs. 1 billion was seeded to execute the marketing and promotion of Pakistan’s unseen sites and cultural heritage assets for both local and international travelers. With the help of the Aviation sector, the (TPRI) Tourism Promotion and Regional Integration licenses were drafted for promoting tourism and regional connectivity.
2019 also witnessed the visits of several international travel bloggers including the popular Polish travel vlogger, Eva Zu Beck, American writer, and filmmaker Cynthia Ritchie, food blogger Mark Weins and an American vlogger Drew Binsky. These celebrated bloggers shared their experiences with the international world highlighting the beauty of hospitable Pakistan. The memorable stories shared by these international bloggers and the recent visit of the royal couple, Prince William and Kate, put Pakistan back on the international world as a tourist destination.
Pakistan has been ranked on the Condé Nast Traveller's list of best travel destination for 2020. #Airizo #TravelWithAirizo #LetsTravelTogether #Traveling #TravelCompany #TravelPortal #TopTravelDestinations #Pakistan #PakistanTourism pic.twitter.com/4tRNplfPcb
— Airizo.com (@airizo2) December 16, 2019
All these efforts within a year helped Pakistan secure top ranking on a prestigious international tourism platform the Condé Nast Traveller’s list of best holiday destinations for 2020.
These efforts were jointly collaborated by provinces within their own focus on developing and promoting tourism across their territories. KP took the lead in formulating its own legislation and tourism authority to promote its tourism assets. The formation of its own tourism authority, KP segmented the focus on religious, sports and responsible tourism and is currently in process of creating integrated tourist zones.
The effort to highlight Buddhist sites, monuments and setting up Buddha trail from Khanpur to Swat, hosting the 33rd National Games and renewed promotion of famous Shandur Festival helped KP build the local brand for a larger Pakistani brand as an international destination. KP is also the first province that embraced digital Pakistan and launched the first tourism app in the country to better promote the destination and facilitate travelers.
Read more: Pakistan – An Unseen destination
GB, AJK, and Punjab were also instrumental in taking a step forward to promote their own sites. The creation of tourism police in AJK and KP are commendable steps taken to facilitate safe responsible tourism in their areas. KP tourism takes a lead by offering a 33% quota of women in tourism police to promote diversity and gender equality through tourism initiatives.
With the success stories in 2019, it is also important to remember that renewed tourism focus is only a year-old initiative and it may take time with a consistent effort from both the public and private sectors to help achieve its full potential. Apart from infrastructure, human capital development is essential to create a skilled workforce for this industry. Each provincial tourism body with the help of private and donor organizations can play an important role in raising Small Medium Enterprises by creating local resource centers to train local workers and skills in different areas of tourism.
Hadi Pirzada, a hospitality management consultant, has worked across Switzerland, Canada & Dubai. A graduate of Cesar Ritz Hotel School, Luzern, Switzerland and Brock Univ. Canada, he has worked in Global Sales & Marketing Operations with Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Marriott International, Starwood & Intercontinental Hotels and traveled extensively to tourist destinations as part of his responsibilities. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org & Twitter: @hadipirzada