ISLAMABAD-The government is strengthening the licensing system, as the mushroom growth of inexperienced and unprofessional tourist guides and operators is spoiling the country’s image in the eyes of foreign tourists, said MD Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) Aftab ur Rehman Rana while talking to WealthPK.
“To make our tourism sector productive, it is crucial that our tour operators, tourist guides, hospitality sector, etc. must be trained as per the international standards. All types of licenses to play any role in this sector must be issued after strict measures of training and testing,” he said. “Already tour operators, tour guides, hotels, guest houses, etc., get operation licenses from the Department of Tourism Services and each province has a branch of this office, including the federal capital. We are currently taking measures to enhance the system and ensure that the services provided to visitors are up to the mark,” he said. “Recently, after consulting all the key stakeholders of the tourism and hospitality sector, the National Minimum Standards (NMS) for Tourism and Hospitality has been developed, which will be further applied all over Pakistan. Parallel to NMS, a training program has also been framed which will be mandatory to get a license and to work in this sector as hospitality worker, tour operator, tourist guide, etc.”
Continuing the discussion, Aftab said, “To improve the quality of services in this sector, we are going to conduct the first-ever ‘National Tour Guide Training Program’ in the current month with the collaboration of various other agencies, i.e., the College of Tourism and Hotel Management (COTHM), Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan (STFP), Department of Tourist Services (DTS), and Pakistan Association of Tour Operators (PATO), etc. Ultimately, with the coordination of all stakeholders, this extensive training program will be launched as a regular activity. It is a subsidized program because the PTDC and other stakeholders will bear the major costs, including training material, the trainers’ costs, etc. The trainees will bear only 30% charges to cover the logistics, travel costs, transport, etc.” Aftab said there was a serious shortage of tour guides in Pakistan and through this National Program, they had to train at least 5,000 tour guides in the next three to four years to bridge this gap. He said a few sessions of this program will be held on the PTDC premises and some in COTHM. A lot of fieldwork is also an essential part of this program. An extensive training session of 15 days will be indoors. The trainees who pass the first stage or 15 days’ training will be eligible to participate in the next stage of three months of training under the supervision of senior tourist guides and with various companies to improve their skills. After completing all these steps, the trainees will be considered qualified to get a tourist license.
The PTDC wwmanaging director said the International Tourist Guide Association was also coordinating with the PTDC. Besides, the services of international trainers have also been hired to train Pakistani tourist guides. Aftab said quality private institutes like the COTHM – the first private sector institute – have also been encouraged to introduce hotel and restaurant management programs in the country. COTHM now has branches all over the country. Similarly, the Punjab Tourism Institute is working in Lahore and in other parts of the country. “The PTDC universities are also focusing on this subject which will help improve human resource services because, without the participation of the formal institutes, the level of quality and services in this sector can’t be improved. So, within the next two years, an extensive human resource development training program will be unfolded to get quality services according to the global standards,” he said. He said tourist licensing after training will help stop the mushroom growth of all unprofessional social media tourist guides and tour operators forever. Even non-licensed hotels, lodges, guest houses, etc., will also be banned from hosting tourists, he added. “In future, the Department of Tourist Services will strictly monitor all the illegal practices in this concern. A campaign through the national media channels will also be launched very soon to inform the general public that they should hire the services of only licensed tour operators, travel agents, and tour guides. It is also a part of the agenda that the government media regulatory authorities will ban all advertisements of non-licensed tourist operators, guides, companies, etc. People will also be made aware to stay in places which are licensed to host such clients,” he added.
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