Tourism and Peacebuilding

Capacity building workshop in Rawalakot

Aniqa Khan | 10 August-10 September 2016
CPDR is a research and training organization which strives to bring about a transformational change by promoting peace, reforms and human rights for economic development, social justice and prosperity particularly in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Its goals depict a challenging yet attainable vision of future, focusing primarily on the capacity building of young people in collaboration with numerous other independent organizations and people from different strata of the society.

Being a land enriched with towering mountains, snow- covered peaks, fruitful plains and exuberant rivers, Azad Jammu and Kashmir is rightly called a paradise on earth. The scenic beauty scattered all over the ten districts of AJK makes it an excellent centre of tourist attraction, displaying its huge potential to become the largest tourist site in the region. However, due to lack of information, training and skills required for the flourishing of this industry, the region has remained unsuccessful to realize its true potential.

As a leading non- governmental organization operating in AJK, CPDR in association with PAITHAM which is the Pak Austrian Institute for Tourism and Hotel Management, arranged a training program in the District Poonch of AJK. It was a thirty- days long course providing teaching and training in areas such as hotel management, cooking, tour guide as well as front desk management. In order to make the participants well- equipped with challenging demands of the field, they were also offered insights about the market trends, tourist behaviors and geographical specifications of the region. The training program was mandated with the promotion of inclusive development from the grass root levels by engaging the local population in different avenues of tourism development. CPDR upholds that tourism, particularly in areas like AJK, opens doors for employment and long- term business opportunities at local level.

PAITHAM, which was the training service provider (TSP) for the project, was largely engaged in the criteria development process of the training. The TSP, in association with CPDR, also contributed in mapping out the training plan in order to effectively carry out different programs included in it.  Monitoring and feedback mechanisms were also established to ensure proper management and scrutiny of the whole process. Qualified resource persons and instructors, affiliated with various prestigious hotels, food chains and organizations in Pakistan were hired to make the training sessions most effective. Besides, strong coordination was also maintained with surrounding hotels and tourist lodges, local community and social media networks to ensure a wider influence and greater benefit for the inhabitants of AJK primarily by probing and catering with the market requirements of the region.   

Who were the trainees?
The most interesting feature of the training was that it involved local population from all strata of the society including highly qualified people on one hand and also men and women with only basic education, on the other. Among the eighty participants of the training, most of the trainees belonged to the under- privileged segment of the society. This training generated a chance of employment for the people who were either jobless or worked abroad earlier in hard circumstances yet low wages.

Muhammad Hanif, a trainee who belongs to Devi Gali and was previously working as a salesman in Abu Dhabi, did front desk management course. He believes that the course has increased manifold for him the possibility of getting hired, both within Pakistan and abroad.

Ruksana Arslan who is a graduate from Banjosa participating in the course, shared with CPDR that she is presently teaching at a government school on temporary basis. Since the education sector in AJK is already highly saturated, the cooking course she as taken would help her get an alternate job. Ruksana also pointed out that they were facilitated during the course with the actual setting of the hotel cooking areas in order to make their learning more effective. They were trained to cook not only traditional dishes but also continental and fast food items which will not only enhance job opportunities for them but will also help them cook better at homes, she exclaims.

Muhammad Abid Khan, a resident of Banjosa who participated in the training and aspires to be a chef, mentioned that this was the first opportunity of learning tourism skills in AJK where all the training was provided in a very conducive environment, facilitating them to practice at spot whatever they were taught about cooking.

The training program not only contributed to equip the local people with important skills in tourism but also generated in them a wave of motivation to succeed and prosper in life. Sadia Bakar, who belongs to village Jandali in the Poonch District, shared with CPDR that although the trend of women working in hotels is not common in their area, yet she will opt for it whenever she gets a chance because she now possesses the necessary skills required for this profession.

Hadia Hanif, who took the training for cooking, revealed the  fact that since she belongs to the remote area called Gai Banjosa in District Poonch, she had never come across such a rewarding opportunity ever before. She also emphasized the need of conducting other courses in their region, especially for women as they cannot travel to distant cities for taking courses.

Closing ceremony
The closing ceremony of the training program was held at the Agriculture University, Rawalakot, AJK on Monday 10th October, 2016 in which eighty participants were awarded certificates. Professor Dr. Abdul Hameed graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. Besides Mr. Tahir Aziz, Dirctor South Asia at the Conciliation Resources, Ershad Mehmud, the Executive Director of CPDR; Hurmat Yab Khan, Incharge PAITHAM as well as Dr. Imtiaz from the Agriculture University also attended the ceremony.

The strategic partnership formed between CPDR and PAITHAM for this training session, spanning over a period of one month, has been able to actively engage the local people of the targeted District Poonch in AJK. It contributed not only to inculcate in the participants necessary skills and competence required to flourish tourism in the region but also advanced an international convention of promoting sustainable development of tourism. Besides, it also opened up new avenues of poverty alleviation and economic stability of the region by virtue of flourishing tourism in AJK.

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