World Bank reports that Punjab tourism project for economic growth is as slow as snail.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged to develop eco-friendly tourism in Pakistan. Right from the beaches in the south to fair meadows in the north, PTI government aims to boost tourism in the country.
The pace of implementation activities needs to be accelerated substantially and despite the fact that the Punjab tourism project has initiated a number of activities towards achieving results.
Three key posts at the Punjab tourism project monitoring and implementation unit level remain vacant including project director, as reported by World Bank while reviewing the status of the project.
The Punjab tourism project became effective in October 2017 is meant to increase private sector participation and improve infrastructure services in support of developing the tourism sector in Punjab.
According to the World Bank report, the incumbent project director is a civil servant and is holding the position on additional charge basis, whereas fresh recruitment will be made from the private sector.
Recruitment of these positions has been delayed due to a ban on recruitment placed by the Election Commission of Pakistan. Subsequent restrictions imposed by the Punjab planning and development department as per a notification issued on Sept 18 2018.
It has been decided that a position of civil engineer and tourism specialist will be added to the PC-1, to ensure comprehensive technical input is provided on timely basis.
The Punjab tourism project is in the process of procuring consulting services to support achievement of a number of results including implementation of reforms, conducting training for master trainers and identifying curricula for vocational training related to tourism and civil work.
It is significant for Pakistan to develop federal level structure for coordinating activities and ensure uniformed projection of tourism, the WB report observed.
The absence of such a body, it said, had been cited as the major constraint to the growth of tourism sector in the country.
The WB report recommended that a system of electronic visas should be introduced together with multiple entry visas to allow pilgrims to attend multiple festivals in a year, adding that NADRA had the capacity to develop system for issuance of e-visas but this had not yet been approved by relevant departments.
Coming to aviation sector, flights to Pakistan remained expensive with limited direct connectivity from various international airports and, therefore, options for charted flights during tourism seasons needed to be explored.
In the area of immigration, the World Bank report said officials needed to be trained and capacity needed to be strengthened to ensure a pleasant experience for tourists coming to Pakistan.
World Bank report also emphasized the need for communications, outreach and citizens’ engagement and this was essential to create awareness about the historical and cultural significance of the sites being targeted by the project.