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Speech by His Highness Prince Amyn Mohamed at the Foundation Ceremony of Faisalabad Serena Hotel 1983-03-19

Saturday, 1983, March 19
Prince Amyn Muhammad Aga Khan

Your Highness, Your Excellency the Governor, Honourable Minister, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I should like to start by expressing in this public forum on behalf of all the co-investors in the Faisalabad Serena Hotel and on my own, our deepest thanks to the Government of Pakistan, and in particular to the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Finance and the Pakistan Banking Council, for making possible the realization of this project, The idea of the Faisalabad Serena Hotel and the Quetta Serena Hotel originated in 1976. In a tourism project evolved by IPS that was then both larger and more complex but which, for a number of reasons beyond our control, we have had to restudy, to redefine, to redirect. If we have been able successfully to do so and if we are gathered today almost 7 years later for this ceremony symbolizing the implementation of our project, it is in the largest part thanks to the assistance and understanding shown to us by the Government and the Banking Council.

I should also like to record here my personal gratitude to the Governor of the Punjab, Lt. Gen. Ghulam Jilani Khan, for the unwavering help he has brought to the Executives of Tourism Promotion Services and the personal interest he has taken in the realization of the Faisalabad Serena. As we move now into the crucial construction phase of this hotel, I hope we may count on his and the Government of Punjab's continuing assistance and backing. Finally a special word of thanks is due to Begum Viqarunissa Noon, Advisor on Tourism to the President of Pakistan and Chairman of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation for her active support of this project over these past many months.

The Serena concept - if I may use that word - implies the highest respect for local cultural, social and artistic tradition and, in particular, the local architectural vocabulary, our intentions that clients in Serena Hotels should live a genuinely local experience, through details of architecture, through interior decor and landscaping, through forms and colours, through artifacts and handicrafts, through the food they eat and the sounds they hear, so that their stay with us, enabling them to live in the most immediate manner a local life-style, becomes something of a cultural experience too. Within this overall framework of respect for local tradition we insist on the highest standards of efficiency and modern comfort.

Our search for architects for this project was thus difficult: they had to be able to comprehend, analyse and appreciate the traditional architecture of this area and, simultaneously, they had to be expert in the complex technological requirements of hotel design and construction. It was thus only after many interviews in many countries of many eminent architectural firms that we finally selected the Canadian firm of ARCOP Associates whose work and approach were, we felt, sympathetic to our aims. By coincidence, some years later, in 1980, ARCOP was one of the winners of the first Aga Khan Awards for Architecture presented in the Gardens of Shalimar and it was for precisely an Hotel built on this subcontinent that they won their award.

ARCOP's first task was to visit the Punjab and Baluchistan, particularly Faisalabad and Quetta. Here they compiled an ample photographic library of indigenous architecture characteristics and techniques and they undertook research into local products and materials suitable for the decor of the hotel. They also needless to say, studied matters such as soil conditions, seismic requirements and even typical local vegetation and plant life. I think you will recognise in the designs of the Faisalabad Serena that you will be viewing later, the loggias, the tile work, the pierced balustrades, the fountains and the plays of light and shade that are so characteristic of this unique and beautiful town.

Thereafter, design work has been performed jointly by ARCOP in Canada and the Pakistani firm of Qamar, Amir and Iqbal with whom they have associated themselves in a close and fruitful collaboration, An interesting feature of this collaboration, to which I should especially like to draw your attention, concerns the on-job training that ARCOP have effectively provided to young Pakistani Nationals: indeed, three young and talented Pakistani architects have each spent up to several months working in the Montreal Offices of ARCOP on the drawings for this Hotel. We expect these young men now, on their return to this country, to use the experience and expertise they gained with AIRCOP in Canada to help us ensure that the Faisalabad and Quetta Serenas are constructed to the highest standards and on schedule.

The Faisalabad Serena is intended to fill a known gap that exists at present in the hotel accommodation that this city can offer. Although not a luxury hotel, the Faisalabad Serena is planned to fall within the high three-star range. We believe and hope that the hotel will have a significant impact on the economic and social life of this city, that it will cater to businessmen, technicians of all sorts, local and in due course, foreign tourists and that it will furthermore, receive patronage from the inhabitants of the city itself. The hotel will have 150 rooms, mostly double, including some suites for larger families and some VIP suites, at an average annual occupancy of 80%, this means that the Faisalabad Serena should be able to yield to this city some 48,000 utilized bednights per annum. The hotel will also offer an attractive Banqueting Room and Conference Hall capable of holding up to 450 people, as well as smaller meeting rooms for seminars, smaller parties and Symposia. Needless to say, we count greatly on the residents of Faisalabad to make full use of the Hotel's facilities for other social events of the sort, the hotel will also offer - two restaurants serving different types of food, a selection of shops, landscaped gardens within which to relax and, in due course, sports facilities including tennis and squash courts, a health entre and a swimming pool. These facilities should, we believe, make a significant contributions to the currently recreational possibilities of Faisalabad, in short, the Faisalabad Serena should, we hope, be the first hotel in Faisalabad of a standard that can genuinely be considered international. The Faisalabad Serena should also present note-worthy job opportunities as staff in it is expected to range from some 289 employees initially to some 340 employees once the hotel reaches peak utilization.

As I believe you are all already aware, designs for the hotel are nearing completion, but tenders have not yet been invited. Our current schedule calls for tenders to go out on 15 May and to be received by 15 July of this year. Construction on the Faisalabad Serena would then begin around the 15th of September and should Insha'Allah be completed within some 24 months, that is, towards the latter part of 1985.

I said earlier in this address that we would be looking to the local authorities and government to assist us to resolve any problems which might arise between now and the beginning of construction. One such problem that comes to mind and which I think we should urgently tackle together concerns the provision of the sewerage piping to this site. Clearly connection of the Hotel to the city's main system is essential, clearly the Faisalabad Serena Hotel cannot alone bear the totality of this infrastructural cost, if it goes above a certain level, without putting in serious question in the Hotel's viability - a viability which it is in the interest of all of us to preserve. I am, however, optimistic that a solution can speedily be found: there will, after all, no doubt me many users of this infrastructure and it would only be fair and normal that all share in the cost of providing it.

Amir Rashid has earlier said some very nice and some very complimentary things about me. They are largely exaggerated, what is not exaggerated; though, is our determination, as so accurately expressed by Mr. Rashid, to operate these first Serena Hotels in Pakistan to the highest level of service and professionalism from the very outset.

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