PTDC workers snubbed Rs1.3b ‘golden handshake’

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ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the PM on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari on Sunday said a financial assistance package of Rs1.3 billion was offered to the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation’s (PTDC) employees laid off by the government but they rejected it.

He also maintained that the PTDC employees were not sacked because the coronavirus pandemic and the government had made the decision because the organisation was incurring losses for many years.

The PTDC has recently shut down 36 motels and fired up to 450 employees.

“We have offered a handsome golden handshake to the PTDC employees but unfortunately they denied the offer at the behest of union leaders,” Bukhari, who is also the PTDC chairman, said at a news conference in Islamabad.

“They [union leaders] discouraged the employees from accepting the package for their own vested interests,” he added.

Bukhari, who is also the National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) chairman, said the management had tried to negotiate with the union representatives but they moved the court against the decision.

He said the package included three running basic salaries for the complete length of service, provident fund, arrears of pay and allowances for six months and a one-year earned leave.

The SAPM urged the sacked workers to accept the offer as it was the biggest golden handshake package in the country’s history.

Bukhari denied rumours about completely shutting down PTDC’s operation. He also claimed that the Covid-19 pandemic had nothing to do with the decision to lay off employees.

“The organisation has been incurring losses for many years because of its outdated operation model, illegal appointments and lacklustre approach of the previous governments,” he claimed.

He said the federal cabinet had decided to restructure the PTDC and transform it into a vibrant and profitable organisation so that multiple jobs could be generated through effective promotion of tourism.

“The restructuring of the PTDC is meant to shift its model from an operator to a policy maker and regulator.”

After the restructuring, the PTDC will work as an execution arm of the NTCB which was set up by the government with an aim to develop coordination among the federating units.

“Tourism is a devolved subject so strong coordination among the provinces is imperative to boost the sector.”

Bukhari said a top consultant was hired to carry out the restructuring of the PTDC.

He elaborated that PTDC motels would be handed over to the provinces with a plan to lease them out to the private sector for 30 years.

He explained that the investors would not give much attention to revamping the motels if they were leased out for three to five years.

“However, with an extended lease and a credible tender, you will see that these 46 motels will become three- or four-star hotels.”

A 10-year road-map (2020-2030) has been prepared to invigorate the tourism industry to ensure maximum utilisation of its resources.

A five-year action plan is also being finalised to implement the government’s plan to promote tourism.

The SAPM said the government would soon launch ‘Brand Pakistan’ to promote the tourism industry as a customised brand.

An e-portal to inform tourists about the hotel ratings, weather, traffic and other information has also been prepared.

Bukhari said all initiatives were ready and would be rolled out after the coronavirus pandemic subsided in the country.

A Tourism Promotion Endowment Fund with Rs1 billion seed money has also been set up.

The SAPM said Pakistan would host the World Tourism Forum in 2021.

“The World Tourism Forum brings investors willing to bring $6billion [to the host country]. If we are able to cash in on event 50% of that, it will bring $3 billion investment into the country.”

Bukhari further said the D-8 Summit would also be held in the country in 2022.

“The tourism ministers of the D-8 member states have expressed their keenness to attend the three-day conference.”

To a query, Bukhari said the government had no intention to sell off the PIA-owned Roosevelt Hotel in New York.