LAHORE: The Punjab Planning and Development Department has set its sights on boosting the tourism sector by strengthening institutional capacity through better skill development. It also aims to boost economic growth and aid new job creation, besides improving the country’s image abroad.
The department, on Saturday, organised a knowledge-sharing workshop to help private sector engagement in tourism. One of the key objectives was to explore the potential to attract private sector participation.
The provincial government is implementing the Punjab Tourism for Economic Growth Project, in collaboration with the World Bank Group, to support infrastructural development of selective religious sites in Punjab. These sites will be selected on the basis of their heritage value, historical significance and tourism potential.
“The project will explore institutional modalities to engage the private sector by developing public-private partnership frameworks, undertaking private-public partnership feasibilities and developing sector-specific guidelines,” said Planning and Development Department Secretary Iftikhar Ali Sahoo.
He reiterated that Punjab recognises the immense untapped economic potential of the tourism sector. The secretary underlined that the provincial government was committed to revitalising and promoting economic growth by boosting the tourism industry, as outlined in the government’s 'First 100 Days Agenda'.
During the workshop, a presentation emphasising tourism initiatives being undertaken by the Tourism Development Corporation Punjab (TDCP) was also given by the TDCP managing director. He emphasised how the private sector led the charge for growth in the sector with the government’s help. The MD said the regulation of the sector can lead to job creation and economic development in the tourism sector.
Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Tourism Committee Chairman Raja Hassan Akhtar pointed out that the FPCCI has always advocated and voiced the collective opinion, concern and aspiration of the private sector, offered helpful advice and solid assistance to the government in its efforts to promote exports, encouraged foreign investment and stimulated economic activity in the country.
The World Bank Group’s Kamran Akbar carried out an analytical exercise on cultural and heritage tourism. He laid special focus on the tourism policy and regulatory frameworks, faith-based tourism regarding the Sikh circuit, Buddhist circuit and Sufi shrines, along with leisure and adventure tourism.
Planning and Development Board Chairman Habibur Rehman Gilani highlighted the need for private investment and entrepreneurship promotion in the tourism sector of Punjab to foster concrete, sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
“The Punjab Tourism for Economic Growth Project is in line with the government’s agenda and will serve as a platform to promote strategic alliances by building public-private partnerships,” said Minister for Tourism Raja Yasir Humayun Sarfraz. He added these partnerships are aimed at upgrading existing facilities and to develop a robust strategy to enhance the engagement of the private sector.
“The unexploited potential of the tourism sector can be unlocked and it can contribute to the economic growth substantially,” he said. The minister believed this could be achieved through He acknowledged that through effective implementation of the project, an investor-friendly business environment and improved institutional capacity.
The event was attended by players of the private sector who actively participated in interactive sessions and the appreciated government’s initiatives and intent to facilitate private investments in tourism.