Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig
We often talk of tourism at local, provincial and national level as an avenue to get income from this sector, many regimes have had loud slogans to promote tourism by making legislation and making tourist friendly rules but all have gone with the wind.
None of the policymakers has been true to their words. No facilities were provided nor any leniency awarded to make things easier for foreign tourists that bring hard currency. Our diplomatic offices all over the world fail to meet the expectations of the potential tourists to our country as the visa policy stands as an obstacle and for a tourist with only a few weeks of holidays get frustrated owing to delay in visa processing by our diplomatic missions i.e. the staff responsible for that piece of work.
The potential tourist to Pakistan then changes his mind, speaks of his failure to get visa to Pakistan and spreads the story among his friends and thus disheartens the would be tourists. The delay in the issuance of visa by our missions thus fail to attract tourists but instead discourages which becomes a negative image through social media. The diplomatic missions of Pakistan in all the countries of the world are not performing as they are expected to do so we lose potential visitors in the wide tourism markets.
Chitral has got two major attractions for foreign tourists; the one is adventure tourism with numerous high peaks and unexplored glaciated valleys with very long trekking routes. This aspect was open to adventure tourists in the past when visa processing diplomats did their duties quite honestly and on priority basis.
The second attraction was the presence of Kalash community with their unique culture. This culture attracts foreigners as well as domestic tourists but the absence of tourism values among the domestic tourists has had negative impacts while the foreigners do come but lesser than in the past.
Another attraction of tourism is religious tourism which has no presence in Chitral except the shrines of Ismaili community like the one at Garum Chashma but it stands untapped. For Buddhist visitors, Chitral has got no attraction compared to Swat, Takht Bhai etc. where numerous relics stand and visitors from all over the world come to visits their holy places.
Chitralis have got lukewarm attitude about tourists: they want to get more foreign tourists but forget to give excellent services. The hoteliers, drivers, guides and other related people are not professionally trained. They give wrong information, tell lies, fail to abide by their words, lack hygienic habits, often break trust of the foreign guests and so bring bad name to the country like the one mentioned by R.C.F Schomberg in his book ‘ Kafirs and glaciers’.
Chitral cannot afford to cater to a very large number of tourists as we don’t have developed infrastructure but we have to be honest in our dealing and services as far as foreign tourists are concerned as they carry all kind of info from this land and spread it in their countries and may encourage or discourage the inflow of tourists from those markets towards Pakistan and Chitral.