Hadi Pirzada |
For hundreds of years, the hospitality and tourism industry has been an important sector contributing to the economies around the world. The industry is considered significant in the economic and social development of any country. Apart from its capacity of job creation, reduction in poverty, human development and environmental sustainability, tourism industry helps a country in number of ways and brings countless opportunities for economic growth.
Tourism in Pakistan has always been there – but until now was given little importance – the current government has recognized the importance of creating awareness both locally and internationally to develop this industry as a major economic driver for the country.
Today, Pakistan for the first time since its creation has shown strong commitment to promote the hospitality and tourism industry by involving the private sector, creation of tourism task forces, working groups, facilitating tourism summits and creating ease of travel by implementing e-visas, visa-free entry for select countries, opening cantonments and public areas and relaxed aviation policies and incentives.
The presence of KPK & GB’s tourism ministries at the ITB Berlin (Major international leisure travel trade show) and currently coordinating the tourism summits across the country are just the starting points to create awareness among Pakistanis and the international stakeholders about the importance of this industry.
Creation of brand Pakistan
As we work towards creating brand Pakistan to attract international travellers, and while the perception of the country as a destination is improving worldwide with representation at major international hospitality trade shows, digital media and bloggers, we still need to put in more effort in promoting domestic tourism and creating a tag line and branding around this to educate our local travellers and the diaspora community.
It is believed by experts around the world that the development of domestic tourism offers the opportunity to generate a more diverse and economically sustainable tourism industry. Pakistan’s immediate focus should be on encouraging local Pakistanis to travel increasingly year over year within their own country. Once as a nation we have developed an appreciation and passion for the attractions in our own country, the tourism equation becomes complete and the international tourism flow and marketing will be easier.
As part of my job as hotelier and hospitality professional, I travel extensively around the globe to promote destinations and hotels but my opinion about my own country changed when I was able to travel to many destinations I had never been before. Growing up, I thought Pakistan is all about our cosmopolitan cities and Murree hills. This changed when I travelled deeper across North. Travelling across difficult roads, driving across long wooden bridges over deep rivers, I saw a culturally rich and diverse Pakistan.
These trips opened eyes for me and my other ex-pat Pakistanis about how little we knew the beauty of our own country. We could speak for hours about England, Switzerland, Miami and Niagara Falls but not about our own country? Tourism is one of the means of cultural communication; it produces social and cultural benefits for the domestic population who might not otherwise be able to experience the cultural and natural richness of their own country.
Therefore, we must focus on promoting domestic tourism by encouraging tour operators to offer more packages, marketing and create awareness of our destinations, villages and historical places so travellers across our provinces can travel and experience those new places. I highly commend PM Khan’s recent approval to create a web portal to promote the country’s tourism, however, whosoever builds this web portal must genuinely think about the local travellers and their travel trends and encourage local Pakistanis to share their stories through a qualifying process on that portal, so first we build a national brand and then promote that national brand internationally.
I will write more in next weeks as to how should we build brand Pakistan so we have an appropriate tag line before we hit the next international trade show or platform. As local travellers, we all must also become the brand ambassadors of our country and use the power of social media to promote every new destination we visit.
Today in Pakistan, according to a global digital report published in January 2019, we have 37 million active social media users, 154.3 million mobile subscriptions with device usage at 82%. The report also indicates that social media users in Pakistan grew by 5.7% than the previous year. This allows us as Pakistanis to do our part to promote and share our positive experiences on social media from our travels and visits so others can get exposure and can plan their next trip across our beautiful and hospitable Pakistan.
Hadi Pirzada, currently an Executive Director at Lakeshore Hospitality Group 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 travelled extensively to tourist destinations as part of his responsibilities. Email: Hadi@LakeShoreHospitality.com & Twitter: @hadipirzada