Re-thinking Tourism


So let’s put the 2 & 2 together.

1: Positive Things in Pakistan: Anything that can be built upon is positive.

2: The Leapfrogging Principle: Bypassing the traditional (and longer, costlier, rougher) road to development and growth by using a newer/ indigenous/ cleverer/ cheaper way – a fresher mindset.

Mix the two, and add to “Tourism” – and what do you get? A fresher, cleverer outlook at tourism that can see the great potential of what can be done – right now.

Usually, the word “tourism” has been equated with cozy, luxury hotels, a Caribbean fantasy shot, lots of shopping in glitzy malls, and – clean roads, prosperous hosts, and lots of good English. Of great concern is the leisure-seeking tourist who wants “peace of mind” and will complain of bad hotels.

Pakistan isn’t getting there anytime soon – so the best approach is: Forget it! NO amount of image-building is going to create or bring that kind of tourism to Pakistan.

Let’s put the positive mind at work: let’s consider the very useful idea… TRAVEL. As different from the glitzy tourism.

Travel evokes a different image: tough challenges, cultural encounters, losing in translation, long roads, bargaining, discovery, unplanned destinations, and unpredictable photos. Closely related is adventure. It’s one of the world’s most ancient traditions, and a kind of “tourism” we can do right now, as we are.

In recent years, curious forms of alternative tourism (travel) have emerged:

Grief Tourism, Disaster Tourism and other forms of “Dark Tourism” – mad as they seem, they are forms of learning and investigation for the tourist. Some dark tourists are historians, or later generations of people who suffered the tragedies.

Voluntourism Where tourists engage in preplanned volunteer activities in their host locations. The voluntourists pay for these activities, and (mostly) arrange their own sponsorships.

World Nomadic Travel: The old-fashioned unplanned travel around the world. Nomads are typically low-demanding, easily adjusting travelers who seek a close cultural experience. They’ll go to village houses, and explore urban contradictions. They often stay for weeks to years in their host locations. The 21st century has seen a rapid rise in a sub-class, that of Digirati Nomads, whose slogan is, “Have Laptop, Will Work (From Anywhere).” Places with cyber cafes, wi-fi hotspots, Internet and phone access, and ATM are all most Digirati Nomads need.

– “Self-discovery” Travels: These include the broad class of (personal) spiritual discovery, and self-development. Also usually unplanned travelers who may see tour planning as an intrusion. Sometimes, they are attracted to the more organized pilgrimages, and self-development classes. Incredible India! has prepared packages to attract this group. A good many, however, simply find their own way- they could be “finding a religion” – and travel on in the search.

– Learning Journeys: For journalists, researchers, businesspeople in search of new ideas, thinkers, change agents. Barring the more elite travelers, the learners are also more open-minded to their host’s conditions. They seek truth, not cosmetics.

and the hot new – Ecotourism! A fantastic new industry whereby travelers either seek to witness best practices, or study ecological wonders or disasters. Ecotourism “focuses on volunteering, personal growth, and learning new ways to live on the planet.”

These fantastic varieties of tourism and travel embrace shanty towns, broken bridges, peculiar cultures, tough roads, nasty history, rubble, bubble, toil & trouble. In fact, they are attracting such a loyal and tolerant group of global travelers now, that the business prospect has justified National Geographic to dedicate an entire new channel to it: Nat Geo Adventure – Let’s Get Lost!

A clear green leap over the Caribbean roadblock!

WorldChanging shows how, applying the Leapfrogging principle, India has started attracting Ecotourists. Africa is attracting Voluntourists. War-torn countries are seeing dark tourism on the rise. Everything is a site for the new traveler!

The key, truly, is to think strategically and work with what we have.

Image: Kutwal Village, Haramosh Valley, near Gilgit Valley, Pakistan – 2006

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1 Comment

  • A very nice set of thoughts – I will add some more detailed comments on these later.

    Jehan Ara was judging the Tourism category in the APICTA awards so she might be able to add some more thoughts here as well

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