An Investment Readiness Conference for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Integrated Tourism Zones (ITZs) was held on Thursday at a local hotel here in Islamabad.
Investment Conference on ‘Integrated Tourism Zones in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’ (ITZ) was organized to mobilize private sector investments and promote responsible tourism. This is for the ITZs in Mankyal, Swat and Ganool, Manshera. The event was held today and was attended by a huge number of national-level investors. Presidents of ICCI, RCCI, representatives of PTDC, KP-BOIT and other trade associations were also present.
The ITZs is a maiden concept in Pakistan which aims to open a new destination in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to promote responsible tourism by suggesting diversity and quality in the tourism offering of these destinations and provide guidance for tourist planning and destination management activities.
ITZ feasibilities and master plans were prepared by the KP’s Department of Tourism (DoT) through the World Bank-sponsored Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Integrated Tourism Development (KITE) project with the support of international experts over a period of one year. The provincial authorities and other speakers shared the opportunities for private sector investments with the participants.
As part of this exercise, customized plans for each destination have been prepared and will be used to invite investments from the private sector. It is expected that this approach to destination management will lead to an improved visitor experience, better regulation of sites and mobilization of resources from the private sector for the identified investments.
Director General KP Culture and Tourism Authority (KP CTA) Muhammad Bakhtiar Khan in his keynote address stated “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is well positioned as a preferred tourism destination in Pakistan – it has a considerable competitive advantage due to the natural endowments and a culture of hospitality. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is not only focusing on creating employment opportunities by promoting tourism activities but also making efforts to conserve natural and cultural assets by promoting responsible tourism in the province. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tourism Department/ KP CTA is committed to its objective of making the province a preferred tourist destination. Efforts are being made to not only develop new tourist sites but also better manage the existing tourist areas. It is important for us to prepare the sites for handling the tourist influx during peak season and to harness this opportunity to create economic opportunities for the communities. ”
Mr. Ali Asghar, Chief Economist KP in his welcome address gave a briefing on sustainable tourism initiatives undertaken by the government, “The use of innovative approaches including, development planning for new and existing destinations, public-private partnerships, reduced carbon footprint and heritage preservation are at the centre of project implementation. The government is contributing extensively towards tourist facilitation, building the sector’s resilience against climate change and geophysical hazards and local economic development. ”
Ms. Kiran Afzal, (Senior Private Sector Specialist, World Bank) in her remarks congratulated the Department of Tourism and the project team of the KITE project on achieving this milestone and mentioned that ITZs can especially help the tourism sector of KP in attracting investments which will lead to the economic and social uplift of local communities.
Chief Guest Sardar Yasir Ilyas, former President ICCI appreciated the Govt. of KP efforts in promoting sustainable tourism and urge the local investors to make investments in the tourism sector. He also explained steps taken by Chamber and government in facilitating investments in this sector.
It is important to note that Upper Swat, and Manshera were impacted by the recent floods and there is thus a compelling case for disaster mitigation in order to conserve nature and protect tourism assets and livelihoods of communities that rely on tourism receipts.
An exclusive discussion on the title ‘Real-estate and Tourism, A Public Private Partnership approach’ was part of the conference. The panel shed light on various aspects of sustainable tourism and opportunities for the local economy. The panelists appreciated the efforts of the DoT, CTA and KITE project and recommended practical ways for the immediate implementation of these plans.