Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Ehsan-ur-Rehman Mazari participated in the 11th session of the 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 the occasion, the Federal Minister said, “It should be a matter of collective pride that an increasing number of ministers are taking part in intra-OIC cooperation for tourism.” Tourism is a mainstay of our economies and the most important source of generating valuable foreign exchange, economic growth and jobs in OIC Member States. Unfortunately, several challenges impede the growth and development of this vital sector, ranging from lack of peace and stability, weak infrastructural base, weak/non-existent regulations and standards.
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 resulted in major losses in the tourism sector in the OIC Member States, including Pakistan, namely tourism receipts and employment in the tourism sector . In the post-Covid scenario, due to the immense challenges faced by the 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 impede the course of development. in tourism due to natural disasters or armed conflicts.
The global tourism market is poised to be more competitive in the post-Covid-19 scenario, owing to new technological advancements, new health and safety regulations, so it is imperative that Member States of the OIC shall take necessary measures to promote tourism, including “Islamic tourism, its allied products and services, as well as provide visa facilities to prospective travelers, as stipulated in the relevant ICTM resolutions.
He said efforts are underway to increase tourist arrivals to Pakistan following the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic as it is an important part of our economy and a key priority of our government. . Promoting tourism among OIC Member States is very dear to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Minister added.
Federal Minister Mazari, while focusing on the theme of the 11th session of the ICTM, said that in order to strengthen local communities to benefit from the tourism industry, the subject of tourism has been delegated to the provinces by through a constitutional amendment. Today, each of the four Provinces has its own independent Tourism Service.
At the federal level, the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) is the agency that provides a strategic vision to develop the tourism sector as a national priority in a sustainable manner and in line with regional and international trends.
The Minister also informed the participants that the GoP has taken a number of measures to strengthen the tourism industry in Pakistan including; Establish a high-level National Coordinating Committee on Tourism (NCCT) under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to oversee tourism development with particular emphasis on developing the necessary infrastructure and framework for the facilitation of tourism.
In addition, the national electronic tourism portal is to be launched to provide the necessary information and facilities to foreign and domestic tourists with just one click. He added that a new publication under the title of “Journey into Light” in English and Urdu has been compiled to promote Islamic heritage tourism in Pakistan.
He added that the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) is planning to organize a conference on sustainable tourism in the OIC Member States. PTDC recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (ICCIA) under which tourism conferences and fairs will be held consecutively in Pakistan for 5 years.
In his speech, the IPC Minister also briefed the august assembly on the government’s work on various infrastructure projects such as road network improvement, tourist accommodation facilities in Integrated Tourist Zones (ITZs) and destination management plans in areas attracting more tourists.
In the end, Federal Minister Ehsan ur Rehman Mazari proposed some steps towards promoting cooperation in tourism between brotherly Islamic states. To this end, he proposed that investment opportunities and joint venture projects in the tourism and hospitality sector can be shared among investors from OIC Member States. Furthermore, linkages among tourism stakeholders should be established with a view to enhancing joint marketing of tourism and promoting cooperative efforts at the level of sub-regions as well as at the level of the OIC region as a whole. . This objective could be achieved by promoting regional and cross-border tourism by offering easy entry and visa services. He added that the holding of tourism exhibitions can be encouraged and the participation of Member States can be ensured on a reciprocal basis.