The importance of the Hospitality and Tourism segment as a growing industry has been recognized by the current government, and have shown determination to build this industry as a key economic driver for economic growth and job creation.
Worldwide it accounts for 10.4% of global GDP and 313 million jobs, or 9.9% of total employment, in 2018 according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. In Pakistan, it is currently around 7.1 percent of GDP and 3,850,000 people are attached with the industry, around 6.3 percent of total employment.
These numbers show the possibility of further growth in the sector. The progress made by the tourism ministries of KPK and GB in this sector is commendable.
KP Government has launched cleanliness campaign in areas including Naran, Shogran, Galiyat, Kumrat and Kalam etc, the offenders are also fined heavily, but as a nation we need to realise that we can’t continue polluting our beautiful spots like this, its time to end this culture! pic.twitter.com/XipxxuGviI
— PTI (@PTIofficial) August 2, 2019
KPK Senior Minister Tourism Atif Khan’s efforts to launch a number of valleys with integrated activities for tourists as well as ensuring that a framework and awareness is created ensuring sustainable tourism, such as launching the KPK cleanliness campaign across province is an initiative that was never previously considered for this sector.
Similarly, the recent work done by PM’s Special Assistant for Overseas Pakistanis and Chairman National Tourism Coord Board Zulfi Bukhari 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.
Briefed PM @ImranKhanPTI today & got formal approval on policy level & structural changes in PTDC & @NTCBPak. We are looking at eco-friendly & sustainable #tourism promotion that goes beneath surface, now is #Pakistan’s moment to leapfrog in this sector. pic.twitter.com/YiMZ0SEE27
— Sayed Z Bukhari (@sayedzbukhari) August 2, 2019
However, there are massive capacity issues that need to be addressed which will enhance the governments initiatives and bring them to fruition. The tourism industry has a dire need to elevate the skill set of the workforce employed in the tourism and hospitality sector.
Human resource is a key asset in the hospitality sector because its success relies directly on the service delivery component. The hospitality industry workforce especially in hotels travel guides and food & beverage organizations are in direct contact with their guests or customers at every point of delivery.
Read more: Government Tourism Policy & Economic Growth
Success of such operations are dependent on the service, skill and attitude of their 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.
This places prime importance on training and building capacity of the hospitality workforce across Pakistan.
Read more: Ecotourism – New Buzz word in Pakistan
There is no doubt on the hospitable nature of our people. Hospitality is ingrained deep in our hearts, but with the changing dynamics of the service industry with specializations, smiles, friendliness and courtesy alone will not help us to stay competitive as we develop and market our destinations both to local and international tourists.
For example, a driver could be great in driving but unless he knows the roads to each destination, his driving skills will be of less use in providing a driving experience. Even the level of service in some of our established known hotels is not up to mark where we can confidently call them five stars.
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 training 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.
Outstanding hospitality at the launch of Pakistan’s premier hospitality school, thanks to @Hashoo_Hotels. Students at the Hashoo School of Hospitality Management are going to gain great practical experience during their internships! #hashoogroup @SBSHallam @sheffhallamuni pic.twitter.com/xP6VIG1unj
— James Ellerby (@_jamesellerby) May 2, 2019
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.
— SHU (@SHU_Pakistan) May 2, 2019
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.
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. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.