Pakistan Tourism: Still Trying
It’s not like Pakistan’s tourism ministry hasn’t been trying. The survey I was filling out is part of a two-year-long project that will wrap up this year. Pakistan has a great tourism website. And the country even decided to make last year “Destination Pakistan 2007.” But there’s the rub. Last year was one of the most troubled in Pakistan’s history. Terrorist attacks became a weekly, sometimes daily, occurrence. President Pervez Musharraf threw out the Supreme Court Chief Justice triggering massive street protests. The Swat Valley, a picturesque tourist spot renowned for its skiing and trout fishing, is now, as my colleague Aryn Baker so vividly described just two months ago, Taliban Central. And to end the year, the leading opposition figure was assassinated.
Even the most beautiful country in the world is going to struggle to air its charms with all that going on. The problems I faced during my trip? “Rioting, looting, burning of shops and tires along roads, shooting, general chaos, mayhem and insecurity — and a very bad stomach ailment,” I wrote. I looked up and saw that the survey man, who was waiting patiently for me to finish the forms, was no longer smiling.
The next question read: “Would you please like to give suggestions for improving tourist facilities in Pakistan?” “How do you think I should answer this?” I asked the man, “Pakistan has so many troubles it’s not fair to complain about particular tourist facilities.” He shook his head and agreed that there had been a lot of unrest. “It’s only 10% or 20% of the people,” he said. “The rest of us are very welcoming.” I nodded in agreement — Pakistanis are indeed warm, hospitable and generous — and lamented that he had a tough job. He nodded: “It’s a struggle.”
We both looked at the last question again and talked a bit more about what might help. Then, with a smile from my new friend, I wrote in: “Democracy and Stability.” Easy to write, of course. Harder to make real.