TAAP, PHA & PATO | Tourism Pakistan Is In Quagmire
Written by Ch. Faisal Mahmood
KARACHI: With the world’s tourism barometers and predictions by local and international tourism leading organizations implying positive signals and indicating that Pakistan is skyrocketing and emerging fast as one of the leading tourism destinations and markets for upcoming year of 2020-21 and beyond. Yes, Pakistan’s tourism industry was moving towards success and progression rapidly.
Though it was unusual, this time around our federal and provincial governments were focused towards visitor’s economy, particularly the Prime Minister Imran Khan, who discussed and highlighted on many occasions the tourism Pakistan and its importance for our weak economy on all national and International platforms.
Worldwide, tourism industry was booming before Coronavirus invasion and tourism-oriented setups made fortunes out of it. However, at home, lipping tourism sector for last 20 years was in trouble due to security reasons, resultantly under performed.
Having very high hopes, the confident leading hoteliers, tour operators, travel agents and all their axillaries invested heavily and in many cases beyond their means in tourism-oriented businesses. They all have faith in the commitments of the federal government who was fully supporting the previously neglected tourism industry of the country.
The tourism magnets of Pakistan whether they were historical, leisure, scenic, adventuress or cultural were aggressively marketed and promoted well on all mega international tourism platforms from Fitur Madrid to ATM Dubai by our leading tourism organizations and tour operators.
Many of Pakistan’s tour operators took loans, involved other investors, pledged their houses and properties and made advance payments to hotels, motels, resorts and even booked private houses, paid to local tourists guides, personnel, transporters and other suppliers to confirm and secure the required services in order to secure business, as they were expecting a very successful upcoming tourism season. Of course, they too like international tour operators wanted to earn fortunes out of tourism. Same was the expectation of our fast expending hospitality sector, particularly the big brand of hospitality sector who invested heavily in tourism sector of Pakistan.
So did travel agents of Pakistan. They too copiously invested in upcoming Hajj, Umrah and in outbound travel by Pakistani families during summer holidays by booking tickets and hotel reservations.
The coronavirus menace has hit very hard to each and every travel and tourism organization globally. The situation has proven more fatal for already oppressed tourism industry of Pakistan. At this critical stage where there is no hope of early recovery of tourism and travel trade. Now travel related things are stagnant and standstill with unimaginable losses.
Never in our 40Plus years of publication have we witnessed the tourism industry suffer such extreme losses for which the recovery time and further impacts are unknown.
Being the Voice of tourism industry of Pakistan, we stand with them and request the people who are at the helm of affairs to take the necessary action in order to help and save the travel, tourism and hotel industry from completely crumbling and disintegrating. There are a few steps that the Federal and provincial government are at the privilege of taking.
The government should make available running finance facilities/financial grants for the industry with zero markup from this month (April) up to at least end-2020 to avoid layoffs and business closures in an industry where the majority are SMEs.
Previously taken loans should be deferred and free from mark-up or at a nominal markup.
The federal and provincial governments should announce Tax holidays or concessions for employers and employees, which TAAP, POTA and PHA will discuss with the ministry of Finance.
All License fees of hotels, travel agents and tour operators should be exempted till the industry stabilizes, so that industry also focus on recovery (next year).
Lastly, the nation has to deal with COVID-19 with discipline, care and by supporting each other by playing their due role towards the society. We from the platform of Holiday weekly raising the all legitimate concerns and highlighting the difficulties of travel trade of Pakistan and pray for its early revival.