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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Human Capital – Real Asset of Pakistan’s Hospitality Industry

Pakistan is ranked among the highest traveled country of the year and the natural beauty of country keeps attracting tourists from all over the world. But if Pakistan did not take steps to improve the condition soon, country might lose its status.

Hadi Pirzada |

The Hospitality and Tourism is a growing industry that has been recognized by the current government’s determination of building this industry as a key economic driver for economic growth and job creation. The progress made by the tourism ministries of KPK and GB in this sector is commendable. The KPK Tourism Minister, Atif Khan’s efforts to create a framework and awareness around building sustainable tourism model, launching the KPK cleanliness campaign across province is an initiative that previously was never considered for this sector.

Similarly, the recent work done by Zulfi Bhukari to devise and implement changes in the PTDC structure and formation of NTCB (National Tourism Coordination Board) are important steps towards building Pakistan’s tourism industry for economic growth and poverty reduction.

However, with these great initiatives in progress, there is dire need to elevate the skill set of workforce employed in the tourism and hospitality sector. The human resource is important for every industry but it is the only key asset in hospitality because the success of this sector relies directly on the service delivery component. The hospitality industry workforce especially in hotels, travel guides and food & beverage organizations,  the employees are in direct contact with their guests or customers at every point of delivery that success of such operations are dependent on the service, skill and attitude component of the employees.

We can build roads, do international & local marketing campaigns but if we do not have trained skilled staff the aim of creating future and improved tourist destinations may not be possible

One of the benchmark of a successful hotel, lodging or any Food & Beverage operation is determined by customer satisfaction. A satisfied customer creates repeat business or visits and it is likely to be affected as much as by the standard of a hotel as by the skilled, professional and service-oriented employees who are trained in creating memorable experiences.

Therefore both the skills and the attitudes of the workers are essential to create sustainable repeat business. This places prime importance on training and building capacity of hospitality workforce across Pakistan.

There is no doubt on the hospitable nature of our people. The hospitality is ingrained deep in our hearts but with the changing dynamics of the service industry with specializations, only smiles, friendliness and courtesy will not serve the purpose to stay competitive as we develop and market our destinations. For example, a driver could be great in driving but unless he knows the roads of each destination, his driving skills will be of less use in providing a driving experience. I must admit that the level of our service even in some of our established known hotels is still not up to mark where we can confidently call them five stars.

Read more: Pakistan’s dormant tourism industry

In previous years, the industry lacked vision, and poor administration that affected the growth of the sector. The inability to unlock the potentials of this industry is seen by low-quality employees, poor infrastructures and inadequate funding to support education and training for both public and private sector. There are hotel chains likes of Hashoo, Serena and Avari hotels that have made some impact through their in-house trainings for their employees but there is a significant gap in creating skilled workforce across the country and especially for those who want to adopt hospitality as a career.

Unfortunately, in past decades, there has been slow growth in hotel development in our country particularly in the established five stars tier. There are very few five-star hotels operating in Pakistan that can be counted on a hand and that restricted the progression and motivation of employees to stay in the industry. This could also be the reason that the level of our workforce service even in our established known hotels across the country is poor and not up to the mark where we can confidently call them five stars compared to other international markets.

In very recent years, there are few institutions across major cities started to offer short courses and certificates in the hospitality industry and the upcoming opening of a first hotel management school by Hashoo Foundation, collaborated with Sheffield University are encouraging steps.

However, Pakistan also needs to encourage investment in building parks, hotels, and recreational facilities and preserve our heritage cultural assets to convert into some kind of operational businesses where these graduates and students can find jobs or internships when they graduate from these programs. One way could be to encourage foreign hotel, lodging or park companies to invest in Pakistan to create jobs so the job market and demand for a local skilled hospitality worker is developed.

As a hospitality management consultant and having delivered workshops on capacity building in remote Pakistan, I observed that there is slim collaboration exists between the public and private sectors but the policy framework to include the local stakeholder is lacking. The donor agencies like USAID, UNESCO and World Bank are doing a great job in providing support to projects in the remote destinations to build the capacity of local destinations in terms of creating sustainability in each local area.

However, I would suggest creating local resource centers in each of these areas so those resource centers can also act like territory hospitality schools to create skilled workforce for each destination within local community. Each provincial government (Tourism & Education ministries) with the private sector can play an important role in raising SMEs (Small Medium enterprises), renovations of hotels, creating local resource centers to train local work workers and building skills in different areas of tourism.

Read more: Pakistan’s Hospitality & Tourism: A long but rewarding journey

We can build roads, do international & local marketing campaigns but if we do not have trained skilled staff in service, hygiene, culinary and food safety and waste management, the aim of creating future and improved tourist destinations may not be possible.

Hadi Pirzada, currently an Executive Director at Lakeshore Hospitality Group has worked across Switzerland, Canada & Dubai. A graduate of Cesar Ritz Hoteling 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: Hadi@LakeShoreHospitality.com & Twitter: @hadipirzada