Recently, we have seen a plethora of international bloggers visiting Pakistan, and everyone of them has got nothing but positive things to say about Pakistan.
Many of us have smiled at their bubbly and lively depiction of our country, hailing this recent wave of overwhelming support for reviving our tourism industry.
However, some of us believe that the coverage of Pakistan’s tourism potential by these foreign vloggers may be ‘too positive.’ And we can’t help but ask ourselves why.
And now, an American travel blogger, Alex Reynolds, who runs a thriving travel blog Lost with Purpose, has come out with an honest and transparent appraisal of the pitfalls foreign travelers are likely to encounter while traveling Pakistan.
Here’s what she said:
In her 15-minute video, Alex comes across as a genuine lover of Pakistan, and doesn’t shy away from speaking the truth.
Here’s what she says about the issues that can hurt foreign tourism in Pakistan:
1. The current social media coverage of traveling in Pakistan is skewed.
Right now, independent travelers to Pakistan face the following issues:
- Undue harassment from police, even intelligence officials.
- Unofficial restrictions.
- misleading and unclear bureaucratic procedures.
- mandatory armed escorts.
According to Alex herself:
In my own experience, security agencies have harassed me or my hosts in every single province that I’ve been to: Sindh Punjab, KPK and Gilgit-Baltistan.
She says there has to be a logistical overhaul so that foreign travelers, especially those who are coming to visit Pakistan for the first time, are treated better.
Its important to remember that these people are here to have a good time, and first impressions count for a lot.
Also, the government needs to push clear information for any travelers visiting Pakistan. Alex says there are numerous foreigners who still remain confused about whether they can get visas on arrival or not (thanks to inefficient bureaucracy and government departments).
Alex has some ideas here. Either the government can:
- remove NOC (No Objection Certificates) restrictions from all over Pakistan.
- Or, it can just put up a list that mentions all the places that foreigners can visit hassle-free.
- That way there’s no need for greedy police personnel and overbearing intelligence officials to harass travelers.
The idea is to promote Pakistan’s tourism, without compromising on its legitimate security needs.Clearly this shouldn’t be too hard to implement.
2. Not everyone will have the same experiences as the current social media influencers are showing you.
The Food Ranger, Eva Zu Beck, and many more western bloggers who are currently in the country, there’s no doubt that they have put Pakistan on the world map with their excellent coverage.
But like we mentioned before, some of these influencers are sponsored. Their expenses are taken care of, their itinerary decided, and so on.
Obviously, not every other foreign traveler (especially those from non-Western countries) could enjoy the same experiences. Perhaps its due to the ‘gora complex’. Pakistanis are known for ‘putting white people on a pedestal.’
“I experience this first hand as most people think I’m Pakistani when I walk around. Pakistani women message me all the time on my blog that they want come and travel to Pakistan but they’re worried because they’re not going to receive the same welcome as these white or foreign travelers do.”
Alex says that Pakistan should start attracting travelers from other countries too. And in order to do that, the local tourism industry needs to enlist the support of local Pakistani influencers.
Here’s why this is important. These local influencers could help travelers from other countries feel right at home, taking them to some of the most happening places, treating them to the best cuisine, and so on. In fact, the biggest plus is that Pakistanis themselves can become the biggest stakeholders in boosting the local tourism industry, while taking care of communication/cultural gaps effortlessly.
Its not like Pakistan doesn’t have a thriving community of photographers, vloggers, bloggers, and more themselves. The government and media need to get them onboard, as do the brands that are willing to bring in these white influencers right now.
3. Is anybody aware of the potential for culture clash?
This one should be obvious to many people, but it bears repeating just the same. Pakistan is a traditional Islamic country, and that can prove to be challenging to most foreign travelers who are not well-versed with its local customs.
For instance, Alex highlights a few examples of things foreigners should not do in Pakistan:
- No public displays of affection (PDA). Given’s Pakistan’s dominantly conservative demographic, its a good idea for travelers, even married couples, to avoid kissing in public.
- Male travelers should not flirt with random Pakistani girls.
- Religious talk is to be avoided, especially if you have atheist beliefs.
These are observations that only someone who knows Pakistan in and out, and loves it immensely, is aware of.
Alex says that we need honesty and transparency at all levels here. And that is the government and media’s job.
Its unfortunate that those in charge of reviving the country’s fortunes can be so cavalier about legitimate criticism. Alex’s video doesn’t come across as an attempt to damage Pakistan’s tourist credentials but rather, it should make decision-makers sit up and take notice of issues a normal traveler goes through.
Here’s how Alex concludes her video:
“Despite all these difficulties, people like me have still fallen in love with your country. But the potential has to be managed properly. I just want to help other travellers come to this country and experience what I have – in order to do that the existing problems need to be looked at with a critical eye. I think Pakistan is worth the hype.”
Certainly sounds like a genuine well-wisher to us.