Do We Understand Tourism? Asks the Industry Guru

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Masood Ali Khan

Our country having been engulfed by extremists, some Islamic, some nationalistic and others just anarchic, it seems quite odd to talk of things such as tourism. Yet there are people who have a passion to develop and promote tourism in Pakistan under all circumstances, all odds, and all challenges. Masood Ali Khan, former MD of the Pakistan Tourism Dev. Corp. is one such man who believes in Pakistan’s tourism potential as a conviction.
In this second part of the session we had with him, he further dilated upon different nuances of tourism, principal being heritage, historical, cultural, education, medical, and religious tourism. He cited examples of countries like India and Sri Lanka who equally have similar problems including terrorism, then asks why can’t we do this in Pakistan!

Immediate and aggressive marketing is needed to attract international tourists to Pakistan. New policies need be introduced to promote domestic tourism as well.

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PAKISTAN TOURISM

NEEDS AGGRESSIVE MARKETING

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WoP research desk

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The country having been engulfed by extremists, some Islamic, some nationalistic and others just anarchic, it seems quite odd to talk of things such as tourism. Yet there are people who have a passion to develop and promote tourism in Pakistan under all circumstances, all odds, and all challenges. (He cites examples of countries like India and Sri Lanka who equally have similar problems including terrorism, then asks why can’t we do this in Pakistan!)

Masood Ali Khan is one such person who believes in Pakistan’s tourism potential as a conviction.  In this second session we had with him, he further dilates upon different nuances of tourism, principal being heritage, historical, cultural, education, medical, and religious tourism. He says…

Immediate and aggressive marketing is needed to attract international tourists to Pakistan. New policies need be introduced to promote domestic tourism as well.

“Sadly, we do not take tourism in its true perspective,” says Masood Ali Khan, the Industry Guru and the former Managing Director of the PTDC, (Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation).

In heritage tourism, people come to see different heritage sites including the museums and other such places. Then there is sports tourism and the entertainment and event oriented tourism. This includes festivals like the carnival in Brazil, spring festival of Pakistan, and the Basant in Lahore which though, has been discontinued due to the killer string.

A new and a dynamic vision for tourism has emerged now, adds Khan. It defines tourism as an activity that bridges cultures and civilizations; it creates an environment of understanding and toleration for new and different cultures, different civilizations. For example when people of different religions and origins interact with each other, they exchange cultures and a tint of civilizations. This also creates acceptance and tolerance towards others in the world.

While assessing the impact of tourism on economy, a big and a vital question is how to promote tourism, adds Khan. But before I answer this question, let us first see the impact tourism has in the overall scenario of economy and image building of a country. It has been established now that wherever does tourism flourish, simultaneously does an image building process start. Goodwill of a country cannot be created only through hollow words; on the other hand it is created more tangibly when others come and see our country; by themselves. For example Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok, all have a cosmopolitan society and, therefore, attract hundred thousands of people. But if we promote ourselves by mere statements, it sends negative signals. One can gauge the image of a country from the number of tourists it attracts. Higher the number, higher is the goodwill earned.

Talking about the hurdles, said Khan, the first one we face in this regard here in Pakistan; is the complete lack of coordination between different government directorates and departments. This results in delay in implementation of policy as well as sluggishness in mind of the authorities to take an initiative on their own. “I worked for two years as MD Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. In first few months one understands the department and its people. After that when you think you are firmly on the saddle, the problem comes. The PTDC and the Ministry of Tourism move divergently. PTDC is termed as a private organization while the ministry being a purely government body, for any initiative one puts before them, they put you in a question box as to why permission was not sought before taking up a particular initiative. In case of taking no initiative without prior permission, they put you again in a quandary. “You seem to be doing nothing” they would say, and there lies our real dilemma. Action needs prior permissions and inaction is subject to reprimand. This is the real issue faced by tourism in Pakistan.

Talking about what his contributions have been to promote and improve tourism under such terse but tense circumstances. Still he did some thing to promote tourism in Pakistan, he would say. “I completed approximately 18 events and programs during my two years tenure. These included publication of a book containing detailed plan and guide for tourists. The then president Musharraf asked me for 500 copies as he wanted to give it to foreign delegates (because of comprehensive details the book carried about Pakistan). Besides, I introduced the concept of collective marketing. This included a program developed by PTDC in collaboration with the private sector”.

A business plan was also developed for PTDC because without a comprehensive business plan no organization can proceed properly. The mission and objectives of the organization were drafted in a lucid, transparent manner, to make these more effective, more result oriented. A calendar of events was prepared too, but unfortunately was not followed by the provinces as well as the PTDC, for reasons best known to them. For example, Shundoor Polo is a unique event. It’s the only tournament in the world which is played at a height of about 12000 feet above sea level. But it too was not handled properly. The tourists and tour groups coming to Pakistan always plan their tour a year or two before their arrival and the calendar of events helped tour operators to plan the journey in advance but when the date of an event is suddenly changed, the tourists who had planned their visit accordingly get a very bad image.

There should be an alignment in thinking between the provinces and the center concerning major tourism events,” he suggests. He said he took up this phenomenon during his tenure as MD, PTDC and asked the provincial secretaries concerned to prepare a calendar of events too to get things more smooth. But it did not go well with them.

While briefing, continued Khan, he informed the then president. There were a lot of activities being planned but no accomplishments.

“I have also talked about focus tourism. You see we are a poor country and our resources are limited and that is why focus tourism is a must for us. We have to define our Key Result Areas so that we know the potential of our tourism industry besides the better planning,” he stated.

Khan who is also the honorary Advisor to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Culture and Tourism said, during his tenure he brought tourism on Pakistan Postage. Pictures of different sights were got printed on postal tickets as well as on letter covers.

We also arranged Karakoram Car Rally, which started from Rawalpindi and ended at Sust,” he said adding about 60 delegates from Pakistan and seven countries participated in it. Besides I invited a group of 72 Monks from South Korea and took them to Hunza valley as well as other Buddhist sites in the country. After the visit, the Chief Monk, who has a following of over 10 million people in South Korea, said that he will announce Pakistan as a pilgrimage site for Buddhists and also asked us to start building hotels in the areas of Buddhist sites. But the 9/11 incident changed many things including this plan.

We also started the trend of Inter-Ministerial meetings. Though this was not my job to organize such meetings, I did this because promoting tourism is my passion. Tourism alone cannot be developed and inter-ministerial meetings were a must to sort out issues. Tourism sector is interconnected with other sectors and without the involvement of concerned ministries like those of foreign affairs, interior, communication, finance, culture and religion, we cannot get the desired results. After our first inter-ministerial meeting, we discussed various issues i.e. relaxation of visas, no go areas for tourists and similar issues like security etc. which resulted in improving our tourism policy.

I also prepared the profit and loss statements of the PTDC besides regularizing its preparation. My biggest achievement was to streamline the affairs of corporation’s hotels like Flatties and Flashmans and made them profitable. In addition to these prestigious hotels, 27 motels of the PTDC were also got renovated and were thus made profitable. Another program I started during my tenure was to conduct regular briefing sessions for commercial attaches based in Islamabad or Karachi. But unfortunately I was questioned on this count as well. I also introduced state of the art computerized facilitation centres, but these were not fully implemented except in one or two cities.

On a question about what does he recommend removing the bottlenecks he faced during his tenure, suggested Mr. Masood Ali Khan. To ensure coordination and timely implementation of the projects, the departments of culture, tourism and archeology should be brought under umbrella of one Ministry, he added, later after leaving the PTDC, he instituted a working group on tourism in Lahore and now the group is likely to open its branches across the country to promote District Tourism. All the people engaged in this working group have joined on voluntary basis.

Talking about his professional stint with the hospitality industry, he said he left USA and came to Pakistan with a mission to develop a local international hotel chain because at that time there was no local chain of hotels in Pakistan. “When I joined Pearl Continental, it was then called The Inter-continental. I established it as a local chain and gave it the present name. Pearl Continental is a wholly owned local chain. During my four year tenure at the Pearl-Continental, it earned huge profits,” he concluded.

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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] This cup of tea was served by: Wonders of Pakistan […]

  2. not too good,,,i think that it was the wrost explanation that i have ever heard

  3. […] Do We Understand Tourism?, […]

  4. I do not undestand why we underestimate local tourism. I mean to say why do not we focus on developing such a tourist-based infrastructure where our local Pakistanis are focused instead of just targeting the international community. If we can somehow manage to develop such economical tourist programs where a common lower-to-upper middle class Pakistani can afford to visit tourist spots like Hunza, Swat, Dir, Mahodand, Karakorum, Ziarat, sand beaches in Sind and Balochistan, Kaghan/Naran etc., imagine what size of revenue this activity will generate. Besides, Pakistanis most deserve to see the beautiful country that they have.
    I remember, being from an upper middle class family I could not affort to see places like Hunza, Karakorum vallies. The packages were simply too expensive to see your own country!!

    My suggestion is “Target local tourism rather than just International tourism”.

  5. […] Do We Understand Tourism?, retrieved 18 January […]

  6. […] Pakistan – The Katas Raj Temple, 5. Pakistan, A Treasure Trove of Wonders. But do we care! 6. Do We Understand Tourism? Asks the Industry Guru, 7. Tourism: A Vista of Opportunities for Our […]

  7. The Tourism Industry needs a coherent policy to grow. This in turn needs co-operation between all players in the marketplace.

    • Well said, Steve, all players need to cooperate, so that tourism in Pakistan becomes a success story, which up till now has been a story only.

  8. Suggest how can tourism industry develop in Pakistan???

  9. […] Pakistan – The Katas Raj Temple, 5. Pakistan, A Treasure Trove of Wonders. But do we care! 6. Do We Understand Tourism? Asks the Industry Guru, 7. Tourism: A Vista of Opportunities for Our […]

  10. […] Do We Understand Tourism? Asks the Industry Guru […]


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