With an aim to highlight and find solutions to the issues of the local tourism industry besides ways and means for better public-private sector collaborations to improve the country’s economy through sustainable tourism, the National Tourism Conference was held at a hotel here on Monday.
Themed ‘Discover Pakistan’, the event was attended by a large number of government officials, diplomats, representatives of international community, tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers, airline representatives and many stakeholders.
The conference were held to carry forward the conversation on opportunities and challenges facing the Pakistan tourism industry and think about solutions, create a lasting collaborative relationship among industry actors to strengthen the industry, and engage the government with the results of this initiative to build a lasting public-private partnership between industry operators and the federal and provincial governments.
It began with a welcome address by Aziz Boolani, CEO of the Serena Hotels, who said Pakistan’s tourism industry had an important role to play in both economic development of the country and the sustainable management of resources.
“The industry has an excellent asset base in Pakistan’s spectacular ecological, historical, and cultural offerings. It has the potential to provide far more employment for youth and economic development for communities than it does currently,” he said.
He said the conference was about how government and tourism industry stakeholders could work together to make tourism reach its full potential.
There followed several sessions. The first session was attended by Anthony Cholst, acting country director of the World Bank, Vibeke Jensen, Unesco representative in Pakistan, and Iqbal Walji, group president, Walji’s family of businesses.
Sartaj Aziz, adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, was the chief guest on the occasion. The first session of the conference addressed Pakistan’s tourism resources and potential. Panellists included Mahmood Akhtar Cheema of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, who gave a brief presentation of Pakistan’s ecological and landscape attractions.
That was followed by Salima Hashmi, educationist, who spoke on contemporary diversity and material culture in Pakistan, and Aftabur Rehman Rana, who highlighted various possibilities of national tourism policies.
The session concluded with Islamabad mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz highlighting the importance of destination branding. The second panel discussion focused on provincial tourism potential and strategies where tourism secretaries of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir shared the unique aspects of tourism in their respective areas.
In the third session, the ‘way forward’ was presented by Mustansir Zakir, chairman of the PHA, ‘key challenges and opportunities’ by Sajjad Shah, Chairman PATO, and ‘roadmap for future of travel industry’ by Hanif Rinch, ex-chairman TAAP who shared the roadmap for future of travel industry. The discussion concluded with Sami Baig, district manager of the PIA, and Arshad Ali of the PTDC, discussing the challenges of tourism industry. The organisers said a summary of the conference’s outcomes would be presented to the government for examination.