Tourists: blessing or curse?

It has emerged in last week during Eid holidays and subsequent weekend that domestic tourism has grown quite a lot in one year. It is very encouraging to note that hundreds of tourists from all over the country have flocked to hill stations in a bid to enjoy the summer vacations and get away from the heat of the plains. Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) data shows that a large number of tourists, especially domestic tourists, had been booking their hotels, motels and rest houses at hilly picnic spots. Same was the case with other hotels and resorts in Northern areas where according to estimates, roughly 50-60,000 tourist stayed during the post-Ramzan visiting spree. This is in stark contrast to previous years where tourists would shy away given the country’s law and order situation.

Unfortunately, this positive development has been marred by reports emerging from these areas of groups of young male tourists teasing and harassing female tourists and members of local population. Meenah Tariq, a young woman who went with her husband up north along with a tourist group, shared her harrowing ordeal of harassment on social media. Then a video emerged of a transgender being horrifically harassed by a group of unabated young men who thought it was quite amusing to grab and grope a person just because they were a transgender. There were also numerous complaints from residents of tourists spots and Gilgit Baltistan of excessive littering in these areas. How can a natural scenic place sustain itself when its visitors litter it with garbage and does not even bother to clear it on their way out. Local residents take it upon themselves to maintain the beauty of these locations as they provide a good source of income for their families but it is different to do so under the hefty pressure of thousands of tourists descending upon them on daily basis.

Tourism is always a good source of revenue for economically deprived areas and helps with local business and employment. But for it to thrive and attract international attention, it must be carefully regulated and monitored so that standards are maintained. Providing security to the tourists whether domestic or international as well as ensuring a safe and enjoyable environment for all demographic sectors of society. Sadly, such tourist spots have become exclusive to young male population of the area with females and families avoiding the rush areas at any cost. This impression should be done away by local law enforcement agents. They should make sure that everyone is safe and secure at nay place and gets to enjoy the heavenly beauty of Northern Pakistan as much as they want. Moreover, steps should also be taken to preserve the natural environment of these areas and to mitigate the harmful impact that human interaction on the natural flora and fauna. Only then the tourism industry of Pakistan can grow and ultimately begin to attract international tourists but if we can manage to accommodate all this influx of visitors without compromising anything.

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Mian Bilal