ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has decided to close down six of its premises as they were operating at losses, it emerged on Sunday.
“It has been decided in the meeting that the following sick units/restaurants of PTDC Motels, which are continuously incurring losses should be closed immediately,” said a letter issued by the PTDC.
The six premises are: PTDC motel at Taxila in Punjab, PTDC motel at Chattar Plain in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTDC motel at Astak in Gilgit-Baltistan, PTDC motel at Khuzdar in Balochistan, Chakdara restaurant in KP and Daman-i-Koh restaurant in Islamabad.
The decision was taken at a meeting held on March 5 under the chairmanship of the PTDC managing director to discuss the financial viability of four PTDC motels and two restaurants. Its notification was issued on March 13.
Dawn tried to contact PTDC officials to find out how much losses these premises were incurring, but they were unavailable.
It was only on Thursday that Prime Minister Imran Khan had unveiled ambitious plans to open up Pakistan for tourists and investors which include a new visa policy under which foreign nationals from 175 countries will be issued three-month e-visa and visa fees have been cut by 22 per cent to 65pc.
That was why the news of closure of PTDC motels and restaurants did not go down well with tour operators. “This is discouraging news, especially when the government is trying to promote tourism in the country with the prime minister recently forming a National Tourism Coordination Board [NTCB] to make that happen,” said Maqsoodul Mulk, president of the Pakistan Association of Tour Operators.
“The closing down of these motels and restaurants which are situated at important travelling routes does not go along with the government’s initiative of allowing visa-on-arrival to tourists from two dozen countries such as Austria, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Italy and Japan, besides the US, the United Kingdom, Thailand, Singapore and Korea to mention some,” he added.
Furthermore, “from travellers’ perspective, these routes are very essential and carefully selected to offer them a break and much-needed rest after covering great distances before they proceed further to their destination”, said Mr Mulk. “We know that the PTDC is planning an overhaul and can only hope that the closing down of these units is a temporary decision,” he said.
Employing 533 employees, the PTDC runs 14 motel chains in the country. After the devolution of tourism ministry under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the PTDC is run by the federal cabinet division. The federal government provides the PTDC Rs180 million annually to cover its operating expenses. Nevertheless, the corporation has been facing a deficit of millions of rupees annually.
The permanent staff working at these units will be transferred or adjusted at other PTDC motels as required, except for the watchmen and daily wagers who will be laid off immediately.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the prime minister, Iqbal Muhammad Iqbal, president of the Baltistan Association of Adventure Tour Operators (BAATO), wrote that they were not provided representation in the recently formed NTCB. “BAATO was the only trade body of registered tour operators with representation in all districts of Baltistan division,” the letter stated.
Jamil Nagri in Gilgit also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2019