Your Excellency the Governor of Baluchistan, Your Highness, Honourable Federal Minister for Culture and Tourism, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am happy indeed to welcome your Excellency and all our distinguished guests to the inauguration of Quetta Serena Hotel, which is the second of the two new Serena Hotels that we have completed in Pakistan in these past fifteen months. The first, the Faisalabad Serena Hotel, opened its doors with a formal inauguration ceremony held on November 28th 1987 after some months of running-in operations.
At the outset I should like to express, on behalf of Tourism Promotion Services (Pakistan) Limited which owns and manages this Hotel, as also on my own behalf, our sincerest and deepest thanks to the Government of Pakistan and, in particular, to the Ministries of Tourism and Finance for making possible the realisation of these projects and, in this case of The Quetta Serena Hotel which today stands before you.
I should also like to record our personal gratitude to the Government of Baluchistan, the Administration of the City of Quetta, the Provincial and Local Authorities and to the numerous Government Agencies who have taken so keen an interest in the project. They have assisted us to resolve many basic and at times apparently irresolvable problems such as the provision of gas, electricity, water, telephones and sewerage. Indeed, the problems of water and sewerage have to date found only temporary or partial solutions and it is my hope that these vexing questions can now speedily be resolved in a definitive way. It may not be practical individually to name all the friends and officials who have gone out of their way to show us consideration and to help us successfully to complete the Quetta Serena Hotel, but I would like them all to know how deep and sincere are our thanks and gratitude. Without their active support, it must be debatable whether we would all be gathered here today.
Like the Faisalabad Serena Hotel, the Quetta Serena Hotel is owned by Tourism Promotion Services (Pakistan) Ltd., TPS (P) is a partnership between the Government of Pakistan through the Tourism Division, the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, and the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation on the one hand, and the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and Industrial Promotion Services (Pakistan) Ltd . (IPS(P)), the sponsors and promoters, on the other. The loan finance to the partnership has been substantially provided by a group of Pakistani and Foreign Commercial Banks. As in the case of the Faisalabad Serena Hotel, the Partnership has invested in the Quetta Serena in the ratio of roughly 20% and 80% respectively of the equity capital.
On behalf of the entire partnership in TPS (P), I should like to express very particular gratitude to AKFED : AKFED has provided or guaranteed over 90% of the total finance required for constructing, equipping and completing the Quetta and Faisalabad Serena including loans of SF 15.5 million of which more than half are interest free. It should be stressed that AKFED has provided these funds in foreign currency and it has indeed financed the entire foreign component of the project. Furthermore, following a commitment given earlier, the entire cost of the project over-run of the Quetta Serena Hotel has been financed by AKFED alone.
We had estimated earlier that Quetta Serena Hotel could open its doors for business in the spring of 1988. However, a variety of practical reasons, not least of which the weather, delayed completion of the project and the Quetta Serena Hotel was in fact completed by mid 1988. These delays were caused by factors that, I am sure, most of you know or have experienced elsewhere. From almost all points of view, the Quetta Serena has been a path-setter.
Moreover, special problems have of course also been posed for us by the complexity of completing two major and sophisticated projects, one right after another, in points of Pakistan so distant as Punjab and Baluchistan and in outlying cities like Faisalabad and Quetta that still lack the facilities of the bigger cities of Pakistan and where construction is by definition more difficult. If we have not had to slow down, or frankly interrupt, construction because of excessive heat, we have had to do so because of excessive cold. Winter came to Quetta and manpower evaporated from the construction site of this hotel. Long and hard battles were fought by us to capture and to cover even limited spaces within the Quetta Serena so that as many works as possible, such as wood turning, could continue during those lengthy winter months.
I leave to your imagination how delicate and difficult has also been the task of starting up normal hotel operations in Faisalabad and monitoring those operations while simultaneously working toward the completion of the construction of this hotel. I fear that we have gained ourselves the reputation of hard task-masters, demanding and uncompromising, but such has been the price of completing the hotel we are today officially opening. I can assure you that on no one have we been harder than on ourselves.
I have said that this building is sophisticated, complex. It is. I believe the technology it incorporates and exemplifies is of very considerable interest : Modular, but only partly; largely free-form and kinetic as opposed to compact and static; satisfying all necessary seismic requirements; innovative in its treatment of thermal requirements and of insulation as in its handling of energy conservation; even the pigmented plaster rendering is a "first" in this part of Pakistan and partakes of the experimental. The Architectural vocabulary is that of tradition, but the language is that of the most modern technology. The landscaping itself, would you believe it (and looking around you, I imaging you would) has had to be restarted three times!
When we opened the Faisalabad Serena, I suggested that Government consider additional incentives for those prepared to invest and work in the outlying areas of Pakistan. That remains my view today. Good Hotels are essential to the growth and economic progress of cities of Pakistan such as Quetta. They constitute part of the basic infrastructure required by these cities. If private enterprise is to be stimulated to assist in providing this basic economic fabric to these cities, rather than to investing in the immediate and sure-return metropolises of the country, special incentives will have to be devised. Faisalabad, Quetta and their sister cities are launched on the path of growing industrialisation and urbanisation. The provision of good up-market hotels to them is an essential element, a sine que non of that evolution.
The Quetta Serena Hotel, like the Faisalabad Serena before it, has been primarily a development activity, consciously and specifically aimed by the promoters at contributing to local and national development. These are not fast-in, fast-out, quick return projects. Just as we have willingly accepted that their implementation be difficult, so have we accepted that their gestation be more protracted than would usually be considered normal and acceptable. However, I should like to stress that that does not imply that we consider them gifts or that we postulate and accept that they forever be money-losers. Quite to the contrary. Let me underline that these projects must and will be viewed according to norms which should become, as soon as possible, genuinely commercial. It is in the interest of everyone, country, state and promoter, that these investments be seen to bear fruit as soon as possible rather than appearing to be inevitable loss-makers requiring unwilling and unwelcome subsidies from all concerned. Only in this event will the private sector of Pakistan be stimulated to invest in other, comparable projects.
In no way am I underestimating the difficulties we are likely to encounter at both Faisalabad and Quetta in reaching acceptable parameters of economic activity. The markets of these hotels will be, at least to begin with, primarily domestic and local and it is likely to take some time to build up foreign visitation. Traditions of not staying in these cities for more than a minimum amount of time, or of staying with friends and relations or in guests-houses have to be worn away. New traditions of staying in these Serena Hotels have to be created. A clientele must be developed, of not only businessmen, or civil servants on duty, but also of holiday and leisure travellers. These hotels need to be patronized on weekends and holidays, or they will start off with severe handicaps. Problems of seasonality must also be overcome. And above all, these hotels must take their place in the life of these cities as focal points for the cities' residents for relaxation and for social cultural and sporting life. It is to be hoped that the Quetta Serena will, in fact have an influence on the life of this city and the life-style of its inhabitants. As I have said, the peoples of Quetta and this area, as also important local institutions such as the Military Staff College, The Provincial Headquarters of Government organizations, Banks and National and International Development Agencies must consider this hotel their own and must patronize it and its Restaurants, Banqueting, Conference, Seminar and Sports facilities. Domestic tourism of all kinds will initially be the life-blood of the Faisalabad and Quetta Serenas. It is in the national interest that this domestic tourism toward hither-to inaccessible destinations, away from the beaten paths, should be stimulated, for its represents one of the surest ways of bringing economic development to these areas. It may interest you to know that the Quetta Serena Hotel currently employs a staff of 180 persons. Need I say that as occupancy rises here, so new jobs will be created to tender for that larger influx of clients and their expanding need for services?
When we opened the Faisalabad Serena Hotel I referred to the "SERENA CONCEPT" which guides us in the construction, decoration and landscaping of the Serena Hotels. It implies deep respect for local culture as well as local social and artistic traditions. We seek to provide to our guests an experience that gives them an immediate, genuine and daily intimation of local ways and culture, habits and life-style : through details of architecture, interior decor and surrounding vegetation; through forms and colours, artifacts and handicrafts, light and shade. It is in this spirit that the Quetta Serena Hotel has been conceived and constructed. We have undertaken long and painstaking research throughout this area and I should like here to thank and pay particular tribute to those local leaders and leading citizens who have advised us on all aspects of local culture and aesthetic traditions, welcoming us into their homes and who have been unstinting with their time. I trust that, as you walk through the Quetta Serena, you will recognize the recreation of typical mud walls, even as executed with the benefit of high technology, the marble and tile work, the stones and onyx, the wood, mirror and baluchi hand-work, the fabrics, motifs, colours and designs, the fountains and water-ways resembling the typical local irrigation streams and even the fruit trees of this land of orchards. If we have succeeded in capturing the drama and romance of Baluchistan with its strong and tribal traditions I shall be happy indeed. It is my sincerest hope that you will all agree that the Quetta Serena is a fitting facility for the Provincial Capital of Baluchistan, Pakistan's largest Province.
Finally, a frankly commercial message: May I remind you that, apart from the Faisalabad Serena, the Serena chain can also offer you a charming hotel close to an excellent Museum in Saidu Shariff in the beautiful Swat Valley and a lodge in Gilgit Gazing upon the snows of Rakaposhi? They are both eminently worth a visit, be it for work or leisure.
Before concluding, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tourism Promotion Services, Switzerland, the Management of Costa Smeralda Hotels of Sardinia, Italy, and CIGA Hotels of Italy. They have provided broad technical back-up and have seconded senior personnel, largely without remuneration, for the training of local manpower and they have provided active support in the opening stages of the Quetta Serena Hotel.
Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to thank all the Consultants, Architects, Contractors and Craftsmen, who have been associated with the completion and realisation of this project. They have all given of the best of their professional skills. My warm appreciation and personal gratitude are extended likewise to my colleagues on the Board of Directors. They have given their valuable time, guidance and active support to the project and to me personally at all stages.
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