ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has closed all its motels in northern areas and terminated the services of employees.
A notification issued on Thursday said that the corporation was forced to take this decision as it had been suffering losses continuously.
“Due to continuous and irreparable financial losses having no other resource and the current Covid-19 pandemic, the federal government and PTDC Board of Directors unanimously resolved to close down the operations of the company,” the notification said.
It said the decision was taken following an “in-depth analysis of the present situation and consideration of the facts and circumstances in the company and in the best interest of the employees, company and shareholders for survival and future viability. The company was left with no other option but to take these painful decisions”.
Tour operators term the decision a setback to industry
Reacting to the decision, tour operators termed it a major setback to the tourism industry.
Pakistan Association of Tourism Operators president Maqsoodul Mulk told Dawn that the PTDC motels were ideally situated for tourists to rest and then wake up the next morning and continue their journey farther into the north.
“In a way, the government has now officially told local and international tourists that there is no place to stay between Chitral and Gilgit, in Swat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Naran,” he said.
About 24 or 25 properties now shut down in the entire north are other than the six ‘sick’ motels and restaurants the corporation had closed down in March last year.
Last year, the PTDC had shut down its motels at Taxila in Punjab, Chattar Plain in KP, Astak in Gilgit-Baltistan and at Khuzdar in Balochistan, as well as Chakdara restaurant in KP and Daman-i-Koh restaurant in Islamabad.
“This is discouraging news, especially when the government is trying to promote tourism in the country with the prime minister forming the National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) to accomplish that goal,” said Maqsood ul Mulk.
He argued that the federal government should retain the PTDC and all its properties. Provinces lacked resources to promote tourism, he asserted.
The Alpine Club of Pakistan said that from travelers’ perspective, PTDC motels were established and carefully selected to offer them a break and much-needed rest after covering great distances before proceeding further to their destination.
NTCB member Aftab Rana said the motels had already been shut after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. “However, it has already been decided that the federal government would withdraw from the business mode of the corporation and exclusively promote tourism and that its properties will be privatised,” he said.
He said the PTDC had decided to offer a $1.4 billion package to its employees as golden handshake.
“Unfortunately, the PTDC employees decided to take the matter to court where it is still pending,” he said.
He said the corporation had accumulated losses of up to Rs1 billion. “It has been running on taxpayers’ money and only paying salaries to an unproductive staff. There was no income being generated through its properties.
“It is a hard decision to close down these operations, but keeping all these considerations in view the government has decided to privatise PTDC properties. There is no other option,” Mr Rana said.
Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2020