ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has announced to shut down its Motels in northern areas and terminate the services of its employees, prompting many to raise eyebrows over the incumbent government’s intention to promote the tourism industry and additionally when it would also spark further unemployment.
As per a Circular released on July 1, the decision to close down the Operations of PTDC Motels in northern Pakistan followed an in-depth analysis of the situation marked by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
It was stated that irreparable and continuous financial losses left no option but to take painful decisions resulting in the closure of Motels and termination of services of PTDC employees.
Sources said that the PTDC was shutting down its 30 Motels in northern Pakistan; therefore, 320 employees were being laid off.
It’s worth noting that the government had imposed a lockdown across the Country in March 2020 to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the closure of almost all institutions and industries.
The lockdown though helped in curtailing the spread of Coronavirus but it caused huge financial losses to all state or private entities, and generated unemployment.
In his address to media on June 1, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced to relax the restrictions imposed on tourism with the standard operating procedures (SOPs), reiterating his government’s resolve to give impetus to the industry.
However, the subsequent announcement of shutting down the PTDC Motels and laying off their employees has triggered serious reservations regarding the future of the tourism industry especially when the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t yet seemed to be subsiding and an alternative roadmap to boost the tourism industry is yet awaited.
Separately, in a Twitter message, the PTDC said that its operations are not being closed but are being revamped to make it a world-class tourism organization.
— PTDC (@ptdcpk) July 2, 2020
The Chairman of National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari called this action of laying off staff and seizing operation as a part of restructuring of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC).
In his statement issued by the State Run News Agency APP, Zulfikar Bukhari, who is also the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, rubbished the rumors regarding shutting down of the PTDC.
“We‘re making changes in PTDC as a step towards its restructuring in accordance with global best practices and not shutting it down,” he said in a series of tweets, while highlighting the misconduct of previous managements of the PTDC, which ruined the corporation. This was important to do because over [the] time, due to mismanagement of resources and political appointments, it had become a stagnant organisation running in loss,” he added to his tweet.
When contacted, several former employees of PTDC expressed their grave concern over this decision and stated that PTI believes in the development of tourism but its actions speak otherwise.
Expressions of several former officials and employees of the former Ministry of Tourism and PTDC are as follow:
“There is no doubt that the 18th amendment shifted Ministry of Tourism to provincial concurrent list, therefore, Tourism is no more a subject of Federation. However, a Tourism Board should have been formed to mitigate adverse impacts of transferring Tourism to provinces because no there is nobody left to represent Pakistan at the international level for long. Now National Tourism Organisation (NTO) of Pakistan which is Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) is in process of disbanding. Profiting motels of PTDC have been closed down and staff has been laid off. There are fears that these expensive properties would be placed on auctions once transferred to provinces. These properties were constructed in the majority of cases to use Section 4 for the procurement of prime lands in scenic areas by using clause of Section 4 acquisition of land for the larger interest of the public. There is will serious legal fights over these motels once government would decide to auction them to private companies because previous owners of these properties would use their right to get hold of them stating that they sold/left their lands under Section 4 and only for “larger interest of Public”.
Moreover, PTDC staff who is working for these motels for over three decades would not be compensated and will be given only three-months salaries at the time of laying off. This staff of PTDC Motel is highly skilled staff having 25 to 30 years’ experience and this staff should not go to drain.
There is a claim that PTDC Motels are a burden on public exchequer but this is contrary to fact because PTDC Motels have been earning in surplus rather than taking the burden of other PTDC wings and bridging resources for several other operations. In season, all PTDC Motels are run on 100 percent occupation with less than 50 percent running establishment expenditures”
Former official of PTDC Motels and international acclaimed tourism expert Sheristan Khan has asked the government to review the decision of suspension of PTDC Motels because they are icons of Pakistan Tourism and added that staff of PTDC Motels should be given proper financial support before laying off.
The case of PTDC Motels will be heard in Peshwar High Court on July 22, 2020 where employees have moved against the decision of the government.