Experts from tourism industry term gradual re-opening crucial to save sector from further collapse

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DNA

Islamabad: JUNE 23 – Tourism is one of the worst Covid19-hit sectors rendering huge revenue and jobs losses across Pakistan. New investments and gradual opening of the sectors with strict SOPs could play the crucial role in reviving the sector back to its potential. The speakers linked with tourism sector, donor agencies and concerned government departments said this while sharing their views with the participants during online dialogue ‘Tourism sector recovery – building back better’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Tuesday.

Mr Hassan Daud, CEO Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Board of Investment (BOI).  Said that despite the challenges, opportunities still exist and we are receiving a lot of interest from foreign investors to invest in tourism sites near Dir district. Such investments can materialize quickly if we also improve our tourism-related infrastructure, he added.

“We also need to invest in boosting capacity of human resource in tourism sector,” Daud said and added that we can set up training centers for the tourism sector on public private partnership basis. Besides, he said, we should quickly help raise integrated tourism zones in all provinces.

Dr Vaqar Ahmed,  Joint Executive Director, SDPI, earlier presented a detailed account of pandemic’s impact on the tourism sector and said that the collapse of this sector has also contributed to contraction of growth and jobs in allied industries including food and transport industry. As tourism sector opens up, he said, government facilitation is required to make information around ‘safe tourism’ and it should be easily accessible.

He said that the government bodies such as PTDC need to collaborate closely with the World Health Organization to understand and disseminate SOPs for After-covid19 tourism. Likewise, the necessary health measures need to implement in ways that will help minimize impact on international travel and trade. The support from UN’s World Tourism Organization is the need of hour that could significantly help in saving jobs in the poorest countries. The provincial budgets need to come up with interventions which could share the burden of such overheads that SMEs in the sector are still facing, he concluded.

Ms Kiran Afzal, Senior Private Sector Specialist World Bank Group, while highlighting the financial needs of the tourism sector, said emphasized that all government bodies need to come together to make the tourism sector recovery a success. A lot of learning in this regard is available from other countries and multilateral support bodies, she added.

Mr Hashim Raza, CEO Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) said that we need to introduce and implement well elaborated SOPs to all the stakeholders involved in tourism supply chain. He said that we also need to support working capital of these enterprises keeping in view the financial constraints resulted by Covid19.

Mr Aftab Rana, President, Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan was of view that all of the hotels would now require Covid19-specific certification to make their facilities safe places for the tourists.

Ms Aneeqa Ali, CEO, Madhatters, said that the government bodies in the tourism sector need to enable communities at the grassroots level to aware them on SOPs to stop the spread of the pandemic. Mr Babur Malik, while representing Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), said that his department has initiated coordination and facilitation process with the provinces to develop mechanism for safe tourism.

Dr Muhammad Arif of International Islamic University was of view that we need to help the sustainability of start-up enterprises in tourism sector to save them from a collapse. Urooj Zia of Bahria University termed the implementation on SOPs in this sector a real challenge that need to be responded with the collaborated efforts. .