THE DIRECTION OF TOURISM IN PUNJAB
The overall dimension of tourism in Punjab is going to change. The statement might sound a bit exaggerating at the moment, yet, in reality, it is as honest and factual as one can aspire any quality news to be. After reading this article, you will also be in consonance with me in this particular aspect.
In total, there are five specific areas in which Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab (TDCP), the government-owned organization delegated with the responsibility of tourism promotion in Punjab, has taken such steps, and they augur extremely well for the future of tourism in Punjab. Engagement of the private sector in tourism projects deserves to be discussed in priority over others. TDCP owns many tourists resorts across the province. Traditionally, these resorts were being operated by the Corporation on its own. Whatsoever claims TDCP might be making regarding the profitability and quality orientation of these resorts, it needs no argument to prove that business by no means is any government’s cup of tea. Ideally, the only yet most important task of the government is to provide conducive and enabling environment to the private sector, and also monitoring and regulating its affairs. TDCP had not been following this model and was playing the role of a mere competitor of the private sector in the field of tourism. The corporation has, however, changed its operational model now (thanks to the Punjab Tourism Policy 2019) and has started to offer its resorts to private sector on long-term lease basis. The shift will not only improve the income and expenditure account of TDCP, but will also make it possible for the tourists to avail themselves of quality services while being on tours. Likewise, the net worth of these assets would also increase because of the expansion made by the private sector. The most appreciable is the fact that absolute transparency has been ensured in the overall process of leasing because of which internationally reputed private entities seemed willing to participate and join hand with the government. Leasing of TDCP Nankana Resort to M/s Hashoo Group and TDCP Khajot Resort to M/s Heaven can be quoted as a pertinent example here.
The second commendable step taken by TDCP is its youth mobilization programme. Realising that the youth of the country is getting involved in IT-based entertainment, at the cost of tourism, the TDCP has initiated a meticulously designed program to sensitize the young students to the importance of tourism in life. Tourism officers of TDCP will be visiting educational institutes of Punjab and would deliver tourism-related lectures thereof. These attractively designed lectures aim at familiarizing the students with the tourism potential of Punjab, different economic opportunities available in tourism sector, and their responsibilities as tourists while enjoying at tourist spots. TDCP has targeted 500 educational institutes, both from private and public sector, to be covered till 30th of June 2021.
Thirdly, the government of the Punjab has a very keen focus on developing new sites as tourist destinations. For a common tourist, the tourism of Punjab is nothing beyond Murree and Lahore uptil now. But the situation, for sure, is going to change very soon. TDCP has targeted many new sites like Kotli Sattian, Narr Kahuta, Soon Valley, Chakwal, Attock, Koh-e-Suleman, and Tounsa, and different development projects are being undertaken at these places to develop them as popular tourist destinations. Likewise, different tourism events are also going to be conducted at these very places. The overall plan is to shift the burden of Murree to other places of Punjab, opening economic opportunities for the people of the province on equitable basis.
Fourthly, TDCP has initiated a sharply focussed programme named showcasing Punjab in order to promote the unseen and unexplored beauty of the province. Under the programme, more than fifty documentaries covering different tourist sites of Punjab have been developed. These documentaries would be run on social and electronic media and would play an effective role in popularizing the tourist sites of Punjab at national and international level. Organization of different types of tourist events and publication of tourism journals and booklets are also included in the program which is designed to be completed by June 2021.
Finally, digitalization of the tourism sector is also a step taken by TDCP in the very right direction. Realising the importance of technology, TDCP is on the way to facilitating the tourists through IT programs and devices. Tourism app, web portal and queue management system are a few examples of the many steps being taken for tourists’ facilitation in Punjab.
In a nut shell, tourism department in Punjab is highly alive to the importance of tourism for the economic revival and social rehabilitation of the country. Under the regular supervision of the federal government, different steps for the promotion of tourism sector are being taken. All the ongoing programs carry enormous potential for changing the outlook of the tourism sector. The moment these programs are completed, tourists would start reaping their benefits immediately. Though, it took more than 70 years for the tourism department of Punjab to at least start moving in the right directions; but the good news is that it has finally started doing so.
The author is a PAS officer, currently serving as General Manager, Chief (P&D), Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab (TDCP). He can be reached at: email@example.com