Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Ehsan-ur-Rehman Mazari, attended the 11th session of Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers (ICTM- 27-29 June) in Baku, Azerbaijan. The theme of the session is Role of local communities in tourism development.
Addressing at the occasion Federal Minister said that It should be a matter for collective pride that increasing number of Ministers are participating in the Intra-OIC cooperation for Tourism. Tourism is a mainstay of our economies and most important source of generating valuable foreign exchange, economic growth and employment in OIC Member States. Unfortunately, there are several challenges impeding growth & development of this vital sector ranging from lack of peace and stability, weak infrastructural base, weak/non-existent regulations and standards.
The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 led to significant losses in Tourism sector in the OIC Member States including Pakistan viz-a-viz tourism receipts, employment in tourism sector. In post Covid scenario, owing to immense challenges faced by nascent tourism sector of OIC Countries, there is a need to facilitate knowledge and technology transfers and offer technical assistance for capacity building in member States to increase preparedness for future shocks that could hamper course of development in Tourism due to natural calamities or armed conflicts.
The global Tourism market is all set to be more competitive in post Covid-19 Scenario, owing to new technological advances, new health and safety regulations, hence it is imperative that OIC Member States take necessary steps that promote Tourism including “Islamic Tourism, its allied products, Services, as well as provide visa facilitations to potential travelers as enshrined in relevant resolutions of ICTM.
He said that efforts are underway to increase the Tourist Arrivals in Pakistan after the recovery from the pandemic of Covid-19 as it is an important constituent of our economy, and a key priority of our Government. The promotion of tourism among member states of OIC is very close to the heart of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, added the Minister.
Federal Minister Mazari while focusing on the theme of 11th session of ICTM said that, in order to strengthen the local communities to benefit from tourism industry, the subject of Tourism has been devolved to provinces through a constitutional amendment. Today, each of the four Provinces has its own independent Tourism department.
At the Federal level, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) is the agency which provides strategic vision to develop tourism sector as a national priority in a sustainable manner and in line with regional and international trends.
The Minister also enlightened the participants that GoP has taken number of steps to strengthen the tourism industry in Pakistan including; Establishing a high-level National Coordination Committee on Tourism (NCCT) under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to oversee the development of Tourism with a special focus on the development of required infrastructure and framework for tourist facilitation.
Moreover, National Tourism E-portal is going to be launched to provide necessary information and facilitation to the foreign and domestic tourists on one click. He added that A new publication under the title of “Journey into Light” in English and Urdu languages has been compiled to promote Islamic heritage tourism in Pakistan.
He added, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) is planning to hold a conference on Sustainable Tourism in OIC Member States. PTDC has recently signed MoU with the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (ICCIA) under which tourism conferences and fairs will be held in Pakistan consecutively for 5 years.
In his speech Minister for IPC also apprised the august gathering about the government’s working on various infrastructure projects such as improvements of the road network, tourist boarding lodging facilities under integrated Tourism Zones (ITZs) and destination management plans in the regions attracting more tourists.
In the end, Federal Minister Ehsan ur RehmanMazari proposed few steps towards promotion of cooperation in tourism among the brotherly Islamic States. In this effect he proposed, Investment opportunities and projects for joint venture in Tourism & hospitality sector may be shared among investors from OIC Member States. Moreover, linkages between tourism stakeholders must be established with a view to strengthen joint tourism marketing and promoting cooperation efforts at the sub-regions level as well as at the level of the OIC region as a whole. This could be achieved through promotion of regional and cross-border tourism by offering easy entry and visa services. He added that holding of tourism exhibition can be encouraged and participation of member states can be ensured on reciprocal basis.