by Aftab Rana
Continuous improvement and strengthening of regulatory bodies for implementation of quality standards and certifications for the tourism and hospitality sectors is the hallmark of the countries which have a flourishing tourism industry. In Pakistan, there is a need for a proper regulatory framework and certification mechanism to ensure that tourists receive unparalleled experience through quality services and value for their money while visiting Pakistan.
Implementation of minimum standards through an effective regulatory program is a vital tourism industry asset, designed to establish and improve operational efficiencies in tourism and hospitality industry. Accredited and certified tourism and hospitality businesses have a greater advantage with regards to running and marketing their business including an improved reputation in the tourism marketplace, improved profitability through the implementation of better operating systems, improved employee morale, effective management, and increased customer confidence and satisfaction leading to repeat business.
To discuss this important aspect of tourism industry of Pakistan, an one day consultative workshop was organized by National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) and Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) on 15th October at Ramada Hotel Islamabad. Key stakeholders from public and private sector organizations including representatives of Provincial Department of Tourist Services (DTS), Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, Pakistan Hotel Association, Pakistan Restaurants Association, Pakistan Association of Tour Operators, Travel Agents Association of Pakistan, Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan, Adventure Foundation Pakistan, Alpine Club of Pakistan, College of Tourism and Hotel Management and other organizations participated in this day long workshop.
I was invited as a guest speaker to give a keynote talk on the need to promote and facilitate sustainable and standardized growth of tourism industry in Pakistan by implementing high quality standards and achieving service excellence in tourism services through a well-designed certification and licencing mechanism. In my presentation, I highlighted the key issues associated with the quality standards in tourism and hospitality sector of Pakistan and suggested a way forward to establish a sound mechanism for the certification and licensing of tourism related businesses. Later on, in working group discussions, participates discussed the key issues in detail and formulated recommendation on the following five main segments of tourism and hospitality services:
1. NMS for Hotels and other tourist accommodation facilities
2. NMS for Restaurants and F&B Services
3. NMS for Travel Agents & Tour Operators
4. NMS for Adventure Tour Operates and Outfitters
5. NMS for Tour Guides
The working groups highlighted that presently there is a complete absence of national minimum standards and lack of proper coordination among concerned stakeholders and provincial departments of tourism services to implementation even the existing tourism and hospitality related laws and rules. Although there are certain minimum standards in the rules for the hotels, but no such standards currently exist to ensure quality standards for tour operators and tour guiding. As a result there is large number of unregistered tourism service providers in tour operation and hospitality sector of Pakistan. They are not just providing substandard services to the tourists but also are giving unhealthy completion to the registered service providers in tourism. In the final session of the consultative workshop, representatives of different working groups presented their recommendations and proposed to NTCB to develop a comprehensive draft document to introduce national minimum standards in tourism and hospitality services in Pakistan.