Synergyzer: Could you provide a brief overview of your role as the CEO of Discover Pakistan and the channel’s mission in promoting tourism in Pakistan? How did your passion for Pakistan and its tourism industry lead you to return to your motherland and invest in this sector?
Dr. Kaiser Rafiq: Returning to Pakistan after more than 25 years abroad, having lived in the USA and UAE, I immersed myself in the tourism business during my time in Dubai. Serving as an Advisor to the ruling family, my responsibilities included contributing to Dubai’s tourism growth. This experience sparked my interest in Pakistan’s tourism potential, which I estimate to be over $25 billion, a figure achievable in five years with proper planning and execution. Frustrated by the lack of interest after I tried to talk to the government and no serious commitment, I realized that the private sector needed to take the lead. The best way was to start a dedicated tourism TV channel and promote tourism destinations and potential. Discover Pakistan, launched on March 23rd, 2021, is my brainchild, and as the CEO, I am deeply involved in all its operations. With a passion for innovation, we are committed to making a significant impact on Pakistan’s tourism landscape, fostering positivity and progress.
Synergyzer: What is your long-term vision for Discover Pakistan in terms of elevating the image of Pakistan and promoting tourism?
Dr. Kaiser Rafiq: Our ambitious plan involves expanding Discover Pakistan’s reach to Europe, the Middle East, and North America. By broadcasting overseas transmissions in regional languages, we aim to portray the authentic and positive facets of Pakistan. Our vision is to present Pakistan as a peaceful, beautiful, and progressive nation, creating a lasting positive global perception.
Synergyzer: Have you collaborated with other businesses, government organizations, or non-profits to boost tourism in Pakistan? Can you share some examples?
Dr. Kaiser Rafiq: Collaboration is key to our strategy. We have inked MOUs with various government departments, including PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation), ETPB (Evacuee Trust Property Board), and WCLA (Walled City Lahore Authority). Working closely with these entities, we are creating documentaries on religious tourism highlighting Gurdwaras and churches, and showcasing interior Lahore’s historical sites. Recent collaborations with the Gilgit Baltistan Tourism Authority for the Cold Desert Rally and ongoing partnerships with National Geographic to register our mountains within their database highlight our multifaceted approach.
Synergyzer: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your mission to promote Pakistan’s tourism, and how have you overcome them?
Dr. Kaiser Rafiq: Daily challenges, especially bureaucratic hurdles in obtaining shoot permissions, have been persistent. Government departments often present obstacles, requiring extensive follow-ups. It is crucial for them to understand that Discover Pakistan is an apolitical channel focused solely on showcasing the positive aspects of the country. Supporting Discover Pakistan is actually supporting the cause of Pakistan. Public diplomacy and soft image are the new phenomenon. In today’s world, perception is far more significant than reality. We emphasize the importance of building a positive perception of Pakistan globally in public diplomacy.
Synergyzer: How big of a responsibility do you think it is on your shoulders being the only travel channel in Pakistan in regards to portraying a positive image of the country?
Dr. Kaiser Rafiq: The fact that we are Pakistan’s sole travel and tourism channel places an immense responsibility on Discover Pakistan’s shoulders. We recognize that we are the world’s window to Pakistan, and it is our duty to provide the most positive and beautiful view. This unique position underscores our commitment to reshaping global perspectives about the country by showcasing positive and stunning views so that the world looks at us positively.
Synergyzer: Could you share some of the most captivating and lesser-known travel destinations in Pakistan that you believe deserve more attention?
Dr. Kaiser Rafiq: Pakistan’s diverse landscapes offer unique treasures in every nook and cranny. Areas like Balochistan deserve more attention with its undiscovered beaches, caves, deserts, and the historically rich Gandhara civilization. There are so many mountains and lakes which still need to be discovered. Discover Pakistan’s mission is to unearth these hidden gems, showcasing them to both local and global audiences.
Synergyzer: Pakistan has a rich and diverse cultural heritage. How does Discover Pakistan promote cultural tourism and heritage sites in the country?
Dr. Kaiser Rafiq: Pakistan’s cultural richness is a focal point for Discover Pakistan. We actively showcase historic forts, gardens, gurdwaras, churches, Sufi shrines, mosques, and remnants of ancient civilizations. Discover Pakistan always tries to focus and depict all cultures and cultural events to promote interfaith harmony. Emphasizing cultural diversity and harmony, we aim to portray Pakistan as a land where every religion is not only tolerated but thrives.
Synergyzer: What advice do you have for businesses looking to make a positive social impact while operating in the travel and tourism industry?
Dr. Kaiser Rafiq: To every Pakistani, business, and individual in the tourism industry, my advice is twofold: educate visitors about the historical significance and stories behind the tourism sites and impress upon them the importance of environmental protection. Our collective responsibility is to maintain the cleanliness and environmental sustainability of our tourist destinations.
Synergyzer: Can you share any upcoming projects or plans that our readers should look forward to?
Dr. Kaiser Rafiq: Discover Pakistan is set to launch a revolutionary tour guide app, fostering direct connections between tourists and locals. This free app will facilitate quick access to accommodation, local guides, transportation, handicrafts, and authentic local cuisine, and tourists can connect to all these instantly. This initiative is poised to reshape the tourism industry in Pakistan, ensuring that the economic benefits are felt at the grassroots level.