Tourism and Peacebuilding

Capacity Building and Skill Enhancement Program For the Promotion of Tourism

Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) appeared on the map of tourism very recently.
The aggravating law and order situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, unsafe travel on the Karakoram Highway and proximity of AJK with Islamabad are the key factors which have rendered it a natural tourist destination in recent years.

Capacity Building and Skill Enhancement

In this context, Centre for Peace and Development and Reforms (CPDR) with the support of Conciliation Resources launched a Capacity Building & Skill Enhancement project for Neelum Valley.  It is aimed to produce a work force consisting of about 150 well trained workers in hospitality sector that would contribute in promoting high quality tourism in the Neelum Valley and subsequently in Rawalakot regions.

Recently, first phase of this skill building program has been completed. From 8th November to 8th December 2015, 83 persons including cooks, waiters, receptionists and tourist guides have been trained in Neelum Valley in collaboration with the Neelum Valley Development Board (NVDP). The training was conducted by the Pak Austrian Institute of Tourism & Hospitality Management (PAITHOM), Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. PAITHOM is one of the leading institutes providing tourism & hotel management education and training in Pakistan for a long time.

The training was supervised by Mr. Hurmat Yab Khan, Chief Instructor of PAITHOM, Raja M. Illyas Khan, Chairman Neelum Valley Development Board (NVDP) and Dr. Mohsin Shakil, Consultant, Neelum Valley Development Board (NVDP). Mr. Hurmat Yab personally engaged in the training and conducted several sessions himself.

The participants of the training were mostly local young people who were either already engaged or were planning to get engaged in the tourism and hospitality sector.  Keeping in view the fact that the Neelum Valley is one of the most conflict-affected areas close to the LoC, peace building component was also included in the training manual. This was meant to give an in-depth and broader understanding of the conflict and peace building to the participants.  The key objectives of the courses included skill development for better hospitality services and environmental friendly practices to promote sustainable tourism in the region.

Further, the initiative will flourish AJK tourism industry which is in a nascent phase. This will generate economic opportunities for the local people and help build the tourism industry in a sustainable manner.

During past three years, hundreds and thousands of tourists turned towards Azad Kashmir. Particularly, Neelum Valley and Rawalakot emerged as famous tourist resorts. Consequently, hospitality industry started taking roots in the region.

Newly built guest houses, restaurants, fast growing work forces such as cooks and tourist guides are entertaining the guests at present coming from all across the country.

However, it is largely believed that they lack professionalism and need capacity building to cater the requirements of the tourists.

On the other hand, tourism and peace building initiative across the Line of Control (LoC) is in pursuance of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) agreed by the Government of Pakistan as well as that of India in 2011, to allow tourism and religious pilgrimage across the LoC.

It seems that once the relationship between India and Pakistan improves, things will change at local level.

Future Trainings
CPDR is intended to conduct more traininga in the region to create awareness about the tourism potential of AJK and produce local critical mass that is better trained and well versed in hospitality sector. It will help community to generate economic opportunities for the local people in the tourism industry. 

Feedback from the Participants:

Kalim Ahmed
Course Front Desk Management, Hotel Neelum Greenland Karen

I have been working at the hotel reception for one year. Before the training, we used to do everything without any planning.

We did not know how to respond and talk while attending a call from a customer. By virtue of this training centre, we have learnt how to communicate. We have a lack of facilities in our hotel. We used to argue with the customers when they demanded something.

Now we hope that the customers will leave satisfied with our behavior.

We have been taught to carry out planning on daily and weekly basis which will improve the standard of our service.
Bilal Ahmad
Class Cooking, Karen Guest House

The standard of food in the Neelum Valley was extremely low due to which most of the tourists coming here preferred to cook for themselves. A big reason for low standard of food was our lack of information as well as the skills of cooking.

I could only cook traditional dishes and that too, to a limited extent. But due to this training, I have learnt to cook not only local rather Pakistani and Chinese dishes as well.

I take care of cleanliness due to which people make demand of food. The course has made me realize that the practice of cooking local foods has declined to a great extent here although the customers demand it.

Now, I can cook local dishes which the tourists love to eat.
Khurram Nisar
Course Tour Operators and Guides, Zam Zam Hotel, Kundal Shahi

I have been working in this field for three years. Earlier we were unorganized and had less work. People’s questions about our land appeared annoying to us as they demanded information. I was a waiter when the course began but later on, I got interested in guides because everyone who came to our hotel used to inquire about the availability of a guide. We could not provide them guidance due to the lack of time and a large number of customers. Now we have learnt through the training how to provide important information about our land to the visitors besides creating an awareness about its real beauty and the historical places. We have also learnt how to guide and facilitate the people who want to visit our land. I have started to earn more money through this work as compared to my older jobs. Now I can earn the same amount of money in a few months that I used to earn in a whole year earlier and I also get a tip from visitors when my behavior makes them happy. Besides, by fulfilling the demands of the people who love our local stuff, prosperity is knocking at the doors of other houses too. I intend to establish my own travel and tours agency in future. I am trying to transfer and pass on the skills I have learnt through training to others.
Abdul Basit
Course Waiter, House keeping, Pakistan Hotel Athmaqam

I have accidentally joined this field. I have learnt about the job of waiter and housekeeping as well as their requirements through this training centre. This has made us realize that we have not been doing any considerable work in the past. The customers and tourists here had a lot of complaints. We had no standards of cleanliness and other services. Now I will take more care of these things as well as of the needs and temperament of the customers because this enhances our earning.

The number of hotels and guest houses is increasing in this area. Our efficiency and neatness will be of benefit to us. Now I take great care of manners while serving the customers and entering their rooms due to which I have received job offers from three different places. The owner of the hotel has raised my salary due to my satisfactory performance because he knows I will be warmly welcomed everywhere.

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