New investments and gradual opening of the sectors with strict SOPs could play crucial role in reviving the tourism sector back to its potential which otherwise is one of the worst Covid-19-hit sectors rendering huge revenue and jobs losses across Pakistan.
This was stated by speakers during an online dialogue “Tourism sector recovery – building back better” organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute here Tuesday. Hassan Daud, CEO, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment, said that despite challenges, opportunities still exist and we are receiving a lot of interest from abroad to invest in tourism sites near Dir district. Such investments can materialise 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, Mr Daud said adding 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.
Hashim Raza, CEO, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority 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 Covid-19. Kiran Afzal, from World Bank while emphasised 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.
Aftab Rana, President, Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan, was of view that all of the hotels would now require Covid-19-specific certification to make their facilities safe places for the tourists.
Aneeqa Ali, CEO, Madhatters, said that the government bodies in the tourism sector need to enable communities at the grassroots level to make them aware of SoPs to stop spread of the pandemic. Babur Malik, PTDC, said that his department initiated coordination and facilitation process with the provinces to develop mechanism for safe tourism.
Bahria University termed the implementation on SOPs in this sector a real challenge that needs to be responded with the collaborated efforts. Dr Muhammad Arif of International Islamic University said that we need to help the sustainability of start-up enterprises in tourism sector to save them from a collapse. Urooj Zia of Earlier, Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director, SDPI, presented a detailed account of pandemic’s impact on tourism sector saying that the collapse of this sector 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 Organisation to understand and disseminate SoPs for after-Covid-19 tourism. Likewise, the necessary health measures need to implement in ways that will help minimise impact on international travel and trade. The support from UN’s World Tourism Organisation is the need of hour as it 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.