UNWTO takes action to save tourism industry in Pakistan


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (eTN) – The Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rafai has written letters to the President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, and Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousif Raza Gillani to ask them to stop the process of abolishing the Ministry of Tourism in Pakistan.

The action by the Secretary General’s office was taken on an appeal submitted by Ecotourism Society Pakistan (ESP) and The Region Initiative (TRI) to the Secretary General’s office. This appeal was forwarded by Jason Wang Shuo, Regional Program for Asia, and the Pacific UNWTO to the UNWTO Secretary General’s office with a positive note to take action on the appeal of ESP and TRI.

After this action, the government of Pakistan has halted the process of disbanding the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) for the time being.

It may be mentioned that the Federal Ministry of Tourism has been abolished due to the constitutional amendment that the government has passed, dictating the transfer of all authorities related to tourism administration to local provinces. With an apparent lack of interest by the federal government, coupled with persisting problems among provincial departments, this new system is doomed to fail, as there is no provision in place to support lateral coordination between provinces.

The Ministry of Tourism was responsible for overseeing provincial tourism departments and promoting the country as a tourism destination to the rest of the world. The government abandoning this mission indicates that there is no desire on the part of the federal government to promote Pakistan as a tourist destination on the global map. The government has temporarily placed the Economic Affairs Division in charge of all international tourism-related agreements and partnerships. Within the division, which oversees many other sectors of economic affairs, tourism does not have and will not be treated as the national priority as it should be.

A number of appeals were sent to the President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan and several parliament members, appealing for the government to overturn the decision to abolish the Ministry of Tourism. These appeals have been supported by a number of leading tourism organizations including: the Senate and National Assembly Standing Committees on Tourism, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI), Pakistan Association of Tour Operators (PATO), Pakistan Hotels Association, and Ecotourism Society Pakistan, and The Region Initiative. However, government did not respond to these appeals.

Ecotourism Society Pakistan and The Region Initiative has launched a petition with UNWTO.

The complete petition may be read at: www.ecotourism.org.pk/save-ptdc.htm .