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Swat Serena Hotel, A Heritage Property

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Swat Serena Hotel, A Heritage Property
Swat Serena Hotel

By Munaza Kazmi

Swat a valley as green as the emeralds that lie beneath the mountains. Cold and clear streams and rivers flowing from the snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush. A brilliant blue sky – it’s hard to describe the Swat valley without getting carried away. It feels like one of the most beautiful and enchanted places on earth.

Many know Swat Valley for its tranquility and natural beauty. But the valley houses several archaeological and heritage sites, that marked it as a desired destination among the tourist. 

Swat Serena Hotel, a magnificent heritage hotel, managed and operated by Tourism Promotion Services Pakistan (Owner and Operator of Serena Hotels), lies in the footstep of the Hindukush Mountains in an absolutely secure location in the capital city of Saidu Sharif, within walking distance of the colorful bustling markets selling brightly embroidered shawls, folk jewelry and locally produced honey and ancient Buddhist sites of Mingora. Moreover, it’s easily accessible from Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and other major cities due to the recently constructed Motorway.

The beautiful historic building, surrounded by the lush green neatly tended gardens, with centuries old tress telling the tales of history, the calming voice of water from the ever-flowing fountains, the welcoming serene blue pool, the classy Suvastu restaurant offering a variety of food, the immaculate modern rooms decorated with hint of Swati tradition, and on top the most hospitable staff reflects the true Pakistani culture.

The Hotel today is a heritage property, every stone of it tells fascinating tales of the rich past.  The Hotel was in-fact a Prime Minister House, till today named as Wazir House, constructed in 1935 by then king Badshah Shahib Miangul Abdul Wadud, the Wali of Swat and a descendant of the Akhund of Swat, for his Prime Minister. After Badshah Shahib death, his descendant Miangul Jahanzeb took charge and in 1949 removed the Prime Minister from the Wazir House. Later in 1969, when the princely state of Swat merged with Pakistan, Jahazeb handed over the Wazir House to the government of Pakistan, that transformed it in to the guest house. From the year 1969-1984 onwards, it was with PIA as a guest house.

Reasoning the poor maintenance and care, the House was losing its splendor. Fortunately, in 1984 government of Pakistan leased it to Tourism Promotion Services Pakistan (Owner and Operator of Serena Hotels) for a better change. Serena Hotels that come under the umbrella of Tourism Promotion Services, renovated the hotel and Wazir House with much diligence and converted into a luxury setting, the project was completed with the assistance of Aga Khan Trust and Culture, which resulted in adding up of another luxury hotel of Pakistan and promoting the element of tourism.

Today the Wazir House regained its glory and known worldwide as Swat Serena Hotel-chain of Serena Hotels. Serena Hotels known for their luxury hotels, resorts, palaces, and forts with its remarkable hospitality, enjoy history of promoting tourism, culture and empowering the communities. Many stories can be related mainly, in the times of unrest in Swat and recent pandemic of COVID-19, despite the empty rooms all of the uniformed staff have been kept on by the management of Serena Hotels. 

However, recently the government of Pakistan had shown some ambiguity regarding the managing terms and leasing agreement of Swat property with Serena Hotels. During my stay at Swat Serena Hotel, which would become a memory of lifetime reasoning the luxury, comfort and unending hospitality, I have seen the hint of concern in the eyes of staff about their association of three decades of services with Serena, where they feel as family. Moreover, they felt the fear of losing the bread and butter of their family. 

Contemporary government of all favorite Prime Minister Imran Khan, that seems keen to promote the tourism industry, must see this matter personally, since not only Pakistan would end up in losing one of its luxury hotels, but also the professional institution who maintained wellbeing of community, product and services. Moreover, it would be a question mark to the tourism industry, that is forecasted as to become blood circulation of the Pakistan economy. 

On recent visit to Hassanabdal while speaking at the inauguration of renovated Railway Station on 6th November 2020, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan quoted, we have to consider Tourism as a backbone of Pakistan economy and livelihood “If we improve tourism, there would be no need for taking debt from IMF or any other country. The opportunities are there we just need to take the first step to cash that”.

 

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