.. by Prof Rahmat Karim Baig
The idea cited in the title by the high ups of Tourism department of KPK has been floated to guide the stake holders through public representatives but it is a naïve approach. It has been presumed by the department concerned that beautification of cities will bring more tourists to Chitral. The idea is not new. During the term of a previous government beautification of Peshawar city had been launched and some walls of the city had been painted and chips were fixed on the side walls of some bridges in Peshawar but that did not work and no outcome was registered. Painting a number of walls of a town or city is no guarantee to attract foreign tourists. The foreigners have better, fine and shining buildings in their own countries. They don’t come here to look at high-rise buildings but to see natural environment, landscape, geological formations, mountains, glaciers, culture, cuisine of the inhabitants, local dress, resource management, habits and behavior of the people, research, flora and fauna etc.
The tourists look at the people from a different point of view as they come here with a large amount of experience of other cultures. They note so many different things around them. They come to see new destinations and strange and amazing natural phenomenon. As they reach a town the first thing to see even from the vehicle, is the cleanliness of the vicinity of the town and inside the town. If it is clean the first impression is good. ‘The first impression is the last impression’ says a proverb. Then comes the behavior of the local people, the cleanliness and service of the staff of the hotels, the people in the streets, in the parks, in the markets, the manners, the dealing of the people in the offices, the experience and professional knowledge of the guide etc. After that they note the service of the drivers when travelling in public or private transport.
The tourists who go to distant destinations are already focused on the potential risks of adventures and the positive or negative behavior of the porters and the villagers where they stay. Any cooperation by someone during a journey or stay also counts highly. The local must be helpful and tourist friendly. Any negative sign is shocking for them.
The painting or white washing of walls does not impress any tourist. They come from advanced countries and cities and have wider experience of modern buildings, hotel hospitality in different countries, peacefulness of a specific area or part of a country, the differences that become clearer from one part of the country to the other part such as from Pathan region to GB or Chitral. The tourist does not like the locals gazing at them specially the females with great curiosity. Also that the police escort or tourism police is a nuisance and disliked which they regard as if they were intruders and under watch so the joys to be had in roaming freely is sabotaged and their liberty shrinks at the sight of a rifle bearer along them is highly disapproved. So from the artificial painting and whitening we have to move to:
1. Clean environment in the towns 2. Better roads to all tourist destinations 3. Positive approach 4. Tolerance 5. Good services by the stake holders 6. All level cooperation by the men of the soil ( Chitralis) 7. Abstaining from over charging the tourists 8. A coordinated and sincere service by the tour promoters 9. Providing quality catering service on the road sides at discreet spots beside the natural camping sites in all the valleys. The role of taxi drivers has to be regulated and bargaining over fare from one place to the next destination be fixed and registered roadable vehicles be given membership by the Chitral Tourism Association.
A entity place like Chitral has been popular since long and the integrity of the Chitralis has been given credit by tourists -both foreign and domestic. We have to be realist rather than idealist as this sector is much more sensitive than many others and the tourist may not take away with him bad impression after his visit as he returns to his country and friends he relates all his experience and any negative remark will sure mar the image of our area and cause damage to this aspect of our efforts , be winner not loser. .. Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig, Chitral 09 Nov 2021