Hadi Pirzada |
Pakistan is an unseen and undiscovered destination by both the international world and the local travelers. The hospitality and tourism sector offers phenomenal opportunities to discover this country from the business investment and tourism perspective.
Tourism in Pakistan is a growing industry. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Pakistan’s GDP in 2016 was US$7.6 billion (PKR 793.0 billion), constituting 2.7% of the total GDP. According to a report released by Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation early in 2018, tourism in Pakistan has increased by 300 pc over the past few years.
For the first time, we have seen the government has been assertively vocal to outline and talk about the Tourism industry as its one of the main focuses.
1.75 million Tourists visited Pakistan in 2017 alone and 30 pc travelers were domestic. World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) states, last year, revenue from tourism contributed around $19.4 billion to Pakistan’s economy and made up 6.9pc of gross domestic product. The WTTC expects that amount to rise to $36.1 billion within a decade.
After looking at pragmatic stats above, the hospitality industry in its entirety offers huge potential for Pakistan to create more awareness and education for both the business operators and the customers to discover and drive this country’s future key economic driver.
Issues Facing Tourism Industry
The question is how we move from where we stand currently with this industry. The Government’s initiative to promote tourism is commendable. For the first time, we have seen the government has been assertively vocal to outline and talk about the Tourism industry as its one of the main focuses.
The formation of National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB), giving provincial governments empowerment to devise and implement their own strategies and initiatives to promote destinations is a remarkable step; however, we need to first understand that what does overall hospitality industry means and comprises of; it cannot be alone our breathtaking mountains in the North or just the heritage building in Lahore.
I am not disputing the beauty of our land and creating heritage sites like walled city of Lahore. But, we need to think when we promote a destination, whether at international, national or provincial levels, what are we offering the traveler to experience at those destinations? What are the attractions or activities (other than the God gifted scenic land and chicken karahi) that will encourage travelers to visit these destinations more frequently?
Imagine, if small steps are taken to ensure the accessibility, this beautiful town can achieve more sustainability and be open for at least 8 months of the year for business and create a living for the local people.
One of the questions that come to anyone’s mind is lack of infrastructure and security. Thanks to our law enforcing agencies, particularly the army that has provided the stability as far as the security is concerned. However, the lack of infrastructure is a major concern in most of the talked destinations around Pakistan. Take an example, everyone in this country from the PM to a localite talks about the beauty of our North. But very few pay attention to what can be created in terms of services and activities in those areas so tourism and businesses around that industry can achieve sustainability for longer periods within a year.
North, the Scenic Beauty
The beautiful small mountain community of Shogran offers breathtaking views from the experiences as far as the scenic beauty is concerned. The entire village lacks infrastructure. The one and only route to go up to Shogran from Kuwai is a small road (8kms long) that takes the travelers up to Shogran. The road is so small that in summers, where there is no snow, you still have difficulty due to a narrow unbuilt road.
In fall and winters when the snow starts, one needs to think 50 times if he is willing to take life at risk because it is extremely difficult to reach up to the mountain due to lack of a proper road and snow removal apparatus. Kudos to the local jeep drivers, who are pro at their job and keep driving their jeeps during snowfall and rain through night and day. During my visit, I was told that the road was approved but never built.
Imagine in such adverse circumstances, the local community of Shogran is still trying to survive by offering their hospitality for a short summer season of four months. Imagine, if small steps are taken to ensure the accessibility, this beautiful town can achieve more sustainability and be open for at least 8 months of the year for business and create a living for the local people.
This alone cannot be achieved by the Government as a state is not an expert in building hotels and providing lodging, tours, facility management, and guest services but it is a collaborative effort from the private sector.
During my travels from Galiyat to Naran and from Kalam to Kumrat region, I have observed almost the identical basic issues that will prevent anyone to operate there or to bring tourists to these areas on volume and repeat basis. Some of the issues observed are lack of public toilets, clean and hot water supply, lack of emergency services or dispensaries, road access blockage in winters and most importantly mushroom growth of hotels without proper facility management.
I am not sharing this to discourage the eagerness and initiatives of our tourism bodies but we need to think that if we are making a mark in our country’s history to focus on hospitality industry then we need to broaden our focus to create clean basic hotels, services, activities with an accountability guideline framework so when our sincere government pushes a destination, we also think what that destination will offer once tourists arrive and most importantly to create repeat tourism from the travelers visiting once.
This alone cannot be achieved by the Government as a state is not an expert in building hotels and providing lodging, tours, facility management, and guest services but it is a collaborative effort from the private sector to ensure that they build, train, and promote a facility to achieve sustainable growth.
State can focus on basic infrastructure and perhaps a tax incentive for new hotels, tour operators or airlines but lodging & tour operators need to work together to ensure that their focus is not only on the real estate side of a facility but to also employ best practices to train employees, provide basic amenities and offer activities and experiences that can create repeat business.
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 travelled extensively to tourist destinations as part of his responsibilities.Email: Hadi@LakeShoreHospitality.com & Twitter: @hadipirzada