Aga Khan underlines role of leisure industry in economy: President evinces interest in creating hubs of tourism


ISLAMABAD (March 12 2002) : President Pervez Musharraf will launch the Gwadar deep sea port work on March 23, where the Chinese Vice-Prime Minister will also be present. The coastal road linking it with Karachi will also be built and the first phase of the Chinese aided projects would be completed within 36 months thus providing new avenues of economic development and tourism.

The President stated this while speaking on Pakistan's efforts to set up tourist hubs in the country at the formal inauguration of Islamabad Serena Hotel, sponsored by the Aga Khan Fund for economic development.

In his address of welcome, the Aga Khan stressed the need to explore Pakistan's great wealth of tourism for foreign and domestic tourists. Pakistan, he observed, has considerable potential not only in its wealth of natural settings but also in cultural wealth of another type-life styles and historic buildings in Northern Areas and Chitral; glamour and romance of the Silk Route; and reflections of Ghandhara art etc which have great fascination and originality for foreigners.

The Aga Khan added that Pakistan is in a potentially enviable position to expand and diversify its leisure industry from business travel, both international and internal, to ecological tourism, cultural tourism, and health and recreational tourism.

But to do so the country must enhance its natural and man made assets and bring them to the attention of the foreign and local tourists.

In his inaugural address, President Musharraf dwelt on government's ambitious programme to have hubs of tourism in majestic hills of Northern Areas, in the beautiful virgin coastlines of Balochistan and Karachi and Lahore, building of food streets in Lahore and Islamabad, and expansion of the tourist facilities all over the country.

The President also spoke of developing the new ports of Gwadar, Ormara, Pasni and building of roads from Karachi to Gwadar linking the vast beautiful coastline as a great tourist attraction.

The President added that in the Northern Areas a big network of roads is being developed linking Chitral, Gilgit. Skardu and Kaghan valley, opening vast remote regions for domestic and foreign tourists.

The President said that the government is also trying to restore historical buildings in Lahore and Karachi. The UN declared 2002 as the 'year of mountains' and the government has lined up a series of events including conferences, festivals and car

The President praised Prince Karim Aga Khan for his interest in the socio-economic well-being of the people of Pakistan which, he said, was the second home of the Aga Khan and his illustrious father.

President Musharraf added that Serena Hotel project is a symbol of trust and confidence of the Prince. It adds to the existing infrastructure and strengthens the economy in terms of employment and revenue generation. It is a valuable additional contribution to promote investment and employment opportunities.

The President specially noted that each and every item of the hotel is Pakistan made. He welcomed the move to catalogue the various items used in the hotel and the place of origin and names of the of the workers etc. The Islamabad Serena Hotel, the Aga Khan said, is a visible, tangible expression of the Aga Khan Fund to economic development of Pakistan giving full attention to a wide array of Pakistan cultural aesthetic and artisan traditions.

Speaking about the role of tourism in economic development of Pakistan, the Aga khan said that of all industries tourism is the greatest creator of jobs, as it draws on all levels of labour force in terms of education and skills and all types of enterprises from family businesses to international corporations. However, it is also a highly diffident industry which shies away when it perceives threats to security, health and from other inequitable practices. Pakistan, he added, offers a rather different array of attractions in comparison to some of its immediate neighbours. According to him, Pakistan has considerable potential not only in its natural settings but also in cultural wealth. For example, the life styles and the historic buildings and settlements of the Northern Areas and Chitral are of major interest to travellers interested in ethnology and relate to the romance and glamour of the old trade routes as the Silk Route. Similarly, the reflections of Ghandhara Art and the arts and distinctive characteristics of the tribal areas are of considerable fascination. Pakistan is thus in a potentially enviable position to expand and diversify its leisure industry from business travel both international and internal to ecological tourism, cultural tourism, and health and recreational tourism, But to do so it must enhance its natural and man-made assists and bring them to the attention of the foreign and local markets.

Speaking about developing Northern Areas, he said tourism cannot be promoted when the flights are uncertain and road communications is unreliable. These basic problems are costly to solve but the full potential of Pakistan is unlikely to be realised without efforts.

In order to open up and further unify the country, this might be an opportunity to review its overall transportation infrastructure and related industries. That would provide the basis of preparation of a strategic development plan that would answer Pakistan's multiple needs and especially of those parts of the country currently under-served, be they in the North, or the West or even in Gwadar.

The Aga Khan further suggested that if Pakistan wishes her leisure industry to gain international recognition, the levels of service must compete with those of the currently experienced international travellers who look for quality of service and full value of their money. He suggested that Pakistan may look closely at the question of creating one or more institutions specialised in education for all key aspects of leisure industry.

Copyright 2002 Business Recorder (