‘Tourism makes for 2.9pc GDP, creates 1.4 million jobs in Pakistan’Archive
ISLAMABAD: Tourism is already a key sector in Pakistan, makes for 2.9pc of the GDP and accounts for 1.4 million jobs, but this is far below Pakistan’s potential, said World Bank Country Director Anthony Cholst on Monday.
Speaking at a National Tourism Conference, Mr Cholst said other than security and stability, five factors determine the growth of tourism in the country.
He counted these as maintaining and developing sites, clarifying oversight and authority particularly between federal and provincial agencies, the creation of public private partnerships, involvement of local communities and targeting the right segments such as domestic leisure tourism, diaspora visits and religious tourism.
Various stakeholders including representatives from the government, international community and associated industries took part in the event, the speakers at which included Mr Cholst, Unesco representative to Pakistan Vibeke Jensen, and Walji’s Family of Businesses President Iqbal Walji.
According to Aziz Boolani, the CEO of Serena Hotels, the conference will culminate in recommendations and the formation of a core group which will help the government in strengthening the tourism industry in the country.
Mr Jensen said this was a good time to analyse the tourism sector in Pakistan as 2017 is International Year for Sustainable Tourism Development.
“A sustained tourist generates seven jobs which require low level skills and there has been a sharp rise in domestic tourism in recent years. I believe the services sector will be the driver for the Pakistani economy,” he said.
The chief guest on the occasion was Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz who said there has been a marked improvement in the security situation which means this is the right time to attract more tourists.
“We can improve the economy and generate employment by developing the tourism industry but this is possible only via the private sector while the government provides an enabling environment,” he said.
The first session during the conference addressed the country’s tourism resources and potential.
International Union for Conservation of Nature country representative Mahmood Akhtar Cheema gave a presentation on Pakistan’s ecological and landscape attractions, while educationist Salima Hashmi talked about contemporary diversity and material culture in Pakistan.
There was also Aftabur Rehman Rana from the Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan who discussed the possibilities of national tourism policies. Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz highlighted the importance of destination branding.
“A number of initiatives were taken over the years for promoting tourism and ecology has been under pressure due to unplanned tourism. We do not have a single natural heritage site and not a single protected marine area,” Mr Cheema said.
Ms Hashmi said: “This is a diverse country with immense endowments but we make very little of it. One of the reasons people do not know about these endowments is because they were removed from curriculum.”
Tourism is the best kept secret in Pakistan, Mr Rana said.
“We have very few international tourists which is nowhere near our potential. This sector is growing on its own as a demand driven industry,” he said.
The second session focused on provincial tourism potential and strategies which explored if enough had been done in the provinces post-devolution.
The third session discussed the challenges facing the tourism industry and the way forward.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2017