LAHORE, Oct 13: Along with traditional career options like medicine, engineering and business studies, hospitality industry is also emerging as a rewarding field for the local students who have recently started realising its true potential.

The hospitality industry includes a wide range of services related to management of hotels and restaurants, tourism, entertainment and recreation, as well as transportation. Hospitality industry is categorised in the services sector which makes about 53.3 per cent of the country’s GDP.

It is not just about hotel management and cooking; rather it offers the enthusiasts a wide range of career choices, including, but not limited to, human resources, accounting, guest relations, housekeeping, food and beverages, security, real estate management, event management, marketing and sales etc. Even a business graduate or a finance student could find well-paid jobs in the hospitality industry with international exposure in many cases.

The investment and tourism boom that followed Ayub era created the need for hotels’ development in the country. This trend continued till the early 1980s, after which the Afghan war repercussion dealt a blow to tourism and investment in Pakistan and subsequently to its hospitality industry.

However, the 90s saw a progressive change in the sector with tourism and investment flowing in again and the introduction of modern technology in hotel management mechanisms. At present, a decline in tourism because of militancy has affected the hotel business in most areas of Pakistan, particularly the North where, hotels used to be a major source of livelihood for most locals.

In Lahore alone there has been an upsurge in the number of public and private hospitality schools which claim to offer international standard training to the students. Big names in this regard are Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management, College of Tourism and Hotel Management and Pearl Continental’s Diploma in Culinary Arts. A number of management institutes also offer specialised courses in cookery and professional development in the field of hospitality.

These institutes provide skill-based training to groom all aspects of the students’ personality. In this regard, courses offered in the skill stream include tourism and hotel management diplomas, tour operations, chef courses and food and beverage services. Additionally, certificate courses in various languages and personal grooming are also offered to help the students find career opportunities in different countries. In most cases, the students are given market exposure by making internship mandatory. Most students are offered jobs immediately on course completion, while some exceptional ones get offers from hotels abroad.

The Chefs Association of Pakistan represents the local hospitality sector in the international arena through permanent membership of World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS).

In spite of all these encouraging indicators, hospitality is still a developing sector here. A situational analysis conducted by International Labour Organization (ILO) of the United Nations in 2011 concluded that the sector was still characterised by low wages, gender segregation, inefficient and informal human resource management, resulting in a high workforce rotation.

Eirij Obaid, a student of hospitality management course at a local institute complains that though to a student the sector appears lucrative, practically it has its own issues including little job security, especially for female employees. On entering the industry, many a professional might question themselves whether the money and time they spent for the purpose was worth it or not.

Still the industry entails plenty of opportunities and has the potential of providing employment to a big percentage of the country’s workforce. These opportunities may lay scattered in even far-flung areas where tourism industry can be developed.

However, the growth in the sector is heavily dependent on two other sectors --- economy and tourism. Unless these sectors are given a boost, the hospitality industry will remain incapable of sustaining itself and is likely to eventually wane, like many other sector of Pakistan’s economy.

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