Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Zulfiqar Bukhari said on Sunday that the decision to sack employees of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) was not taken because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a notification issued on Thursday, the government shut down PTDC motels in the northern areas and terminated the services of employees. A notification said that the corporation was forced to take this decision as it had been continuously suffering losses.
"[PTDC] was incurring losses [...] I want to dispel the misconception that we laid people off due to Covid, that is not what happened," said the PM's aide, adding that in 2019 the cabinet had decided to make a mechanism for running the corporation and negotiate with the relevant unions for lay offs.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said that going forward PTDC's motels will be handed over to the provinces along with a template for leasing them to the private sector for the next 30 years.
"When you give a lease for three to five years, the investor doesn't even bother to fix the washrooms, he has nothing to gain from it.
"But when you give an extended lease and give a credible tender [...] you will see that these 46 properties will become three, four star hotels in Pakistan."
Giving the example of Pearl Continental Hotel Bhurban, the PM's aide said that the hotel, which is built on approximately 40 to 50 kanals, has 500 staff members.
"They have 500 employees and we had around 360 for all of PTDC. Is this not an obstacle in the way of employing millions? Should we not employ millions because of these people?"
He reiterated that PTDC has not been closed down, but has been restructured in order to become an efficient organisation, adding that 70 young professionals will be hired to work on Pakistan's branding, marketing and facilitation after coordinating with the provinces.
"The National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) will be on top and the PTDC will be its execution arm," he said.
Earlier in his press conference, Bukhari elaborated on the obstacles the government faced with formulating its policies on tourism with regards to making an action plan and a way forward to present a "complete picture" of Pakistan.
"I say this with pride, that the NTCB has finished working on this for the next 10 years from 2020 to 2030. We have drafted a policy and have made a five-year action plan as well as a brand for Pakistan."
"You see 'Incredible India, 'Malaysia, Truly Asia' and 'Amazing Thailand' [...] Pakistan has also made its brand."
He added that this was initially supposed to be launched on April 18 but has been pushed to the end of the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition, national minimum standard for hotels and motels have also been finalised, he said, along with an e-portal for making hotel bookings which will offer users information on hotel ratings and the weather.
"All of these things are ready, and we will launch them when the Covid-19 outbreak subsides," he said.