American vlogger Alex was to speak at Pakistan Tourism Summit but was not allowed to do so because her presentation was deemed ”critical”. She said they were asked to submit presentations beforehand and due to her content being censorious, she was not allowed to speak.
However, we live in the age of social media, and if you silence the voice on one platform, it always finds a way on another. Alex said that if we want to actually improve the tourism sphere in Pakistan, we need to snap out of our post-colonial hangover and obsession of the white skin, adopting a more critical approach so that we can actually address the persistent issues.
She said that Pakistan Tourism Summit failed its purpose it only wanted all praises, but no criticism. Alex opens her 20-minute video by acknowledging that Pakistan is an incredible country and surely has a lot of potential, but travelling across it is not easy at all.
“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 travellers who have been coming here so far there needs to be a logistical overhaul.” – she said.
She also provided solutions to the issues, which she though can be practical and effective. Speaking about this specifically, she provided three solutions. She said firstly government should either remove the NOC restrictions all across Pakistan or publish a list stating where one needs a NOC when travelling in the country. Secondly, she said, the LEAs should be advised not to harass the foreign travellers and treat them with dignity. Thirdly Alex said that government and media need to stop publicizing the policy changes unless they have been implemented.
She specifically spoke about ‘gora complex’ and said while Pakistan itself has a plethora of talent, they are obsessed with white skin.
“Pakistani travellers 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.” – Alex said.
“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 to come and travel to Pakistan but they’re worried because they’re not going to receive the same welcome as these white or foreign travellers do.” – she added.
To cater this, she said Pakistan needs to get over its colonial hangover. She added that in setting realistic expectations, no one can play a better role than local influencers and they are equally important to improving tourism in Pakistan.
She also highlights cultural sensitivities and clashes. She said that the media doesn’t realise how one should keep their religious views to themselves as voicing them can be a potential threat to their lives in Pakistan.
“You have to be careful when travelling here, and the media coverage says nothing about that. Tourists don’t realise that they should keep their atheistic beliefs silent at the dinner table. Couples might not realise 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 said that to actually improve in this regard, media should start propagating truth and transparency rather than sticking to only positive image building. She concluded that despite all this, she has fallen in love with Pakistan and it surely is one of the most hospitable countries in the world.
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