Tourism industry, govt for developing national economy through sustainable tourism

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A National Tourism Conference, (themed) Discover Pakistan, was a multi-stakeholder effort that aimed to address issues faced by the Pakistan Tourism Industry and to seek solutions to how tourism industry stakeholders and the Government could work together to improve Pakistan’s economy through sustainable tourism. The conference, held at the Islamabad Serena Hotel, was well attended by the Government Officials, Diplomats, International Community, Tour Operators, Travel Agents, Hoteliers, Airline representatives and many others associated with the industry.

The objectives of the conference were to carry forward the conversation on opportunities and challenges facing the Pakistan tourism industry and to present solutions to the impending problems; 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.

The conference began with a welcome address by Aziz Boolani, CEO Serena Hotels who stated, “The Pakistan tourism industry has 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. This conference was about how Government and Tourism industry stakeholders can work together to make tourism reach its full potential.”

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The Chief Guest the occasion was Sartaj Aziz, the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs. The speakers in the inaugural session included Anthony Cholst, Acting Country Director, the World Bank, Vibeke Jensen, UNESCO Representative to Pakistan and Iqbal Walji, Group President, Walji’s Family of Businesses.

The first session of the conference addressed Pakistan’s Tourism Resources and Potential. Panellists included Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, IUCN who gave a brief presentation of Pakistan’s Ecological and Landscape Attractions; followed by Salima Hashmi, Educationist, address regarding the Contemporary Diversity and Material Culture in Pakistan; subsequently Aftab ur Rehman Rana, STFP presented the various possibilities of National Tourism Policies. The session concluded with Sheikh Ansar Aziz, Mayor of Islamabad who highlighted the importance of Destination Branding. The moderator, Sidra Iqbal, took questions from the audience.

The second panel discussion focussed on Provincial Tourism Potential and Strategies where the Secretary Tourism for Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, KPK, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir shared the unique aspects of tourism in their areas.

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The third discussion addressed The Way Forward lead by Mustansir Zakir, Chairman PHA.  Sajjad Shah, Chairman PATO suggested key challenges and opportunities. Hanif Rinch, Ex-Chairman TAAP shared the roadmap for future of travel industry and the discussion concluded with Sami Baig, District Manager PIA and Arshad Ali from PTDC presenting the challenges to the tourism industry in the country.

A summary of the conference outcomes will be presented to the Government for development.