ISLAMABAD: Special Ass­istant to the Prime Mini­ster on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources Development Zulfiqar Bukhari said on Sunday that the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) had not been closed down, but was being restructured to turn it into an efficient organisation.

“Do not misinterpret that the PTDC has been closed down. Following a cabinet decision of 2019, the government has evolved a mechanism for running the corporation, which is based on hiring young professionals from the tourism industry. The PTDC will work with the provinces for marketing and branding Pakistan. There is a well planned strategy to transform the corporation into an efficient organisation. You will see results in a year,” the PM’s aide told a press briefing here.

While he explained that the government had engaged a top foreign firm to revive the PTDC, he also elaborated on the composition of the National Tourism Development Board which, according to him, comprised of qualified individuals.

He gave the example of the PTDC restaurant at Daman-i-Koh in Islamabad that was being managed well by a private party until the government decided to take it back and run it itself, but finally closed it down. “A little higher, Monal and La Montana are earning billions of rupees even though they are not as ideally situated as Daman-i-Koh, which also offers much better panoramic views,” he said.

Mr Bukhari clarified that the decision to terminate services of PTDC employees was not taken because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a notification issued on Thursday, the government had said that it had shut down PTDC motels in the northern areas and terminated the services of their employees. The notification said that the corporation was forced to take this decision as it was continuously suffering losses.

“I want to dispel the misconception that we laid the employees off due to Covid-19 pandemic. This is not what happened,” said the PM’s aide, drawing attention to the cabinet’s 2019 decision.

He said that revival of the PTDC was more important than the jobs of its 360 employees, adding that the corporation had presented a good package when it offered golden handshake to its staff. But it was sadly rejected by the employees.

He urged PTDC staff, who are now fighting their case in courts against their dismissal, to reconsider their decision and accept the package, which included 90 salaries, six-month house allowance, plus arrears, provident fund.

“If the PTDC has to be turned around to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, these difficult decisions will have to be taken. The results will come in a year when these PTDC properties in Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir are privatized,” he said.

He spoke about plans of transforming Flashman’s in Rawalpindi into a fancy hotel along with a mall that would be built next to it.

Replying to a question, the SAPM said that the provinces would develop plans on how to run the motels.

In response to another question, he said that the government could not force the provinces to hire laid off staff.

To yet another question, Mr Bukhari said that Prime Minister Imran Khan was clear about Roosevelt Hotel in New York and was thinking out of the box to make it a profit generating property. Despite being ideally located in Manhattan, returns from Roosevelt Hotel were on steady decline, he said. Last year, it gave a loss of $1.5 million. “One of the options being weighed is to rent it out, but we are not selling Roosevelt Hotel at any cost,” he clarified.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2020