Alex is an American traveler, the person behind the travel blog “Lost with purpose”to share her experience about the places she visits. She was invited last month to speak at Pakistan tourism summit.but her talk was cancelled last minute because it did not fit the agenda of organisation as it is too critical.
After this cancellation , she decided to share her talk on facebook. Alex says that the “oversimplification of travel in Pakistan” creates problems for independent travellers as they’re likely to encounter unofficial restrictions, harassment from officials, unclear bureaucratic procedures and mandatory armed escorts.
She said that
“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. If we’re going to advertise Pakistan as the next great travel destination for people instead of the experienced adventure travelers who have been coming here so far there needs to be a logistical overhaul.”
She also talk about the social media coverage about tourism she said that”Pakistan has a gora complex, a hangover from the colonial era. White people are put on a high pedestal in Pakistan and they receive royal treatment when they come here. Travelers of colour? Not so much.
“Pakistani travelers are not going to have the same experiences as these white influencers are. Pakistani tourists won’t receive security escorts when they go to sensitive areas. Pakistani backpackers aren’t going to get free handouts just because they walked down the street. Pakistani girls are not going to be celebrated or encouraged to ride bikes or motorbikes around the country like their foreign counterparts.”
then she talks about the immense cultural clashes in Pakistan: “You have to be careful when traveling here, and the media coverage says nothing about that. Tourists don’t realize that they should keep their atheistic beliefs silent at the dinner table. Couples might not realize they cannot kiss in public or even hold hands, and that it’s better to say that they’re married if they’re not.
“Men can’t realise how risky it may be to flirt with a Pakistani woman especially in front of her brothers, fathers or male cousins. Many women may not realise that they might be the only woman on the street more often than not and men might interpret their public presence as a sexual invitation, rather than what it actually is, travelling.”
She also gives solutions about these problems for the betterment of tourism in Pakistan Firstly, the government can either remove the NOC restrictions all across Pakistan or publish a list stating where one needs a NOC when traveling in the country. Secondly, the police and security forces need to stop harassing foreigners. Thirdly, the government and media need to stop publicizing these policy changes unless they’ve been enacted.
Secondly Pakistan, get over this colonial hangover. You do not need white travellers to validate your country. Travellers of colour need to know what to expect when coming here and who better to set expectations than local influencers who look like them and come from their culture? Representation matters.