Pakistan is not an easy country to travel: travel blogger Alex

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Travel blogger Alex says she was put on mute at the Pakistan Tourism Summit for her speech being observed critical.

Alex, an American traveller behind the travel blog Lost With Purpose, has taken the internet by storm as she addresses how white privilege in Pakistan is giving a misleading perception of tourism there.

Alex was invited to speak at the Pakistan Tourism Summit last month but her talk was cancelled as the organizers said her views were too critical and were misfit to the agenda of the summit.

She lamented that the organizers only wanted her to speak on the brighter side of tourism in Pakistan.

On being silenced, Alex took to social media in a 15-minute video to acquaint viewers with the loopholes in tourism in Pakistan, one being how tourists of color are not anticipated as much as the Western travellers.

-Gora complex-

“The social media coverage is concerning – not everyone is going to have the same experiences as these white, Western influencers. 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. Travellers of colour? Not so much.

“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.

“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.”

As she flags the need to overcome misrepresentation, she also shares her two cents on how Pakistani travellers themselves, have been no behind in filming the beauty tourism in Pakistan has to offer but don’t go as credited as much as the foreign travellers.

“Pakistan is really cool and has a lot of potential”, Alex says before she contends how “the social media coverage of Pakistan right now is dangerous for the future of the country’s tourism.”

-Pakistan is not an easy country to travel-

However, she goes on to highlight that “Pakistan is not an easy country to travel in and the current social media coverage of it is misleading”

Alex narrated how the “oversimplification of travel in Pakistan” creates a misleading conception to tourism in Pakistan as it disregards the problem independent travellers come across — unofficial restrictions, harassment from officials, unclear bureaucratic procedures and mandatory armed escorts.

To this, she suggests that the government can either remove the NOC restrictions all across Pakistan or publish a list stating where one needs a NOC when travelling in the country.

Alex expressed annoyance at how the police and security forces need to stop harassing foreigners, adding that media also need to stop publicising these policy changes unless they’ve been enacted.

“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.”

-Call for transparency-

Calling for transparency rather than just praising the beauty of Pakistan, Alex insists that government and media also focus on the cultural sensitivities of the people 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.”

In a nutshell, Alex urges that the potential is managed properly, given that Pakistan undoubtedly has a lot of potentials.

“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,” she concludes.