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  • Vlogger invited to speak at Pakistan Tourism Summit but censored
  • She takes to social media to voice her concerns of travelling in the country
  • Social media users from Pakistan commend her

Dubai: A US-based British vlogger Alex is on a warpath with the Pakistani tourism authorities. They invited her for to talk at a tourism summit in Pakistan earlier this month. But, when they saw her rather searing evaluation of the touristic experience, they didn’t let her speak.

She is now using social media to talk about this censorship and social media users in the country are commending her for speaking up.

This was Alex’s fifth visit to Pakistan. She is a travel blogger who runs a website and YouTube channel called Lost With Purpose. She has visited several countries around the world and South Asia, and has also been writing about and photographing Pakistan since 2016.

After being censored from the summit, on April 13 she decided to voice her concerns through her YouTube channel and present the speech she initially prepared for the event. In the first few minutes of the almost 15 minutes-long video, she said: “If a voice is silenced in one place, it can simply appear in another.”

She then went on to explain the issues that come with promoting a skewed view of the travelling experience in Pakistan.

“Despite the purpose of the summit being to talk about travel in Pakistan, it seemed like no one was actually ready to be critical about it,” Alex said.

Twitter user @ImaanZHazir had similar thoughts: “She [Alex] wasn’t allowed to make her presentation at the Pakistan Tourism Summit so we need to make sure we share this as much as we can. Tourism in Pakistan cannot flourish if we: (i) silence critique and honest voices; and (ii) ignore our local talent. Transparency and representation!”

Pakistan Tourism Summit

Pakistani authorities have described the event as “A summit of Pakistan’s leadership, tourism departments, corporate sector and travel professionals to evolve the tourism industry of the country”.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had attended the two-day event.

However, criticism began as soon as the summit took place with many questioning why no local travel bloggers were invited.

At the time, Alex posted on her Instagram story: “It’s really concerning to me that in a country of 200 million people not a single local travel influencer is being featured in this summit. I humbly request that Atif Khan [Pakistan’s tourism minister] and others start giving local talent the support they deserve. There is no one better suited to create content that communicates the wonders of Pakistan than its own photographers, vloggers, bloggers.”

She later made the same argument in her April 14 video that she promoted on her Twitter account. Tagging the premier, Khan, she, @lostwpurpose, posted: “#Tourism in #Pakistan is about to take off, but is the country ready? Is anyone willing to actually talk about it critically? @ImranKhanPTI”

Many appreciated her “realistic” account of travelling in Pakistan as well as efforts of shedding light on the issues that remain in the country.

Replying to her post, tweep, @FarhanKVirk, wrote: “Fully agree with you and thank you for taking a stand for Pakistani creators. Our own companies are not sponsoring local Pakistani talent to highlight our tourism. You are the first one to point it out. Even Pakistan Tourism Summit did not invite Pakistani creators who live here.”

Concerns the vlogger raised

Towards the end of her video, Alex highlighted why “overly positive social media coverage of the country” can be a significant problem and how it is “dangerous for Pakistan’s tourism”.

She highlighted some of the cultural sensitivities people need to be aware of when coming to the South Asian country and that some foreigners, specifically people of colour, might not have the same experience like those who were facilitated by authorities in the country during their trip.

Alex said: “Tourists might not realise that maybe they should keep their ... beliefs silent at the dinner table. Couples might not realise that they can’t be kissing in public or even holding hands.”

Safety of women travellers and vloggers was another concern she raised.

She also highlighted the risk that arises with such “cultural clashes” that are not being widely discussed or being publicised. “All it takes is one of these cultural clashes being published…”

Many social media users agreed with her and questioned the idea of the controlled image of Pakistan that is being promoted through social media platforms and influencers. Like Alex, many also believe that this might hinder the progress the country is aiming to go through and might prove detrimental to Pakistan’s image in the long run.

Twitter user @Usterzai said: “Tourism summit reminded me of those PTV [Pakistan Television Corporation] days, when only positive news was shared and Pakistan was doing so much better, ribbon cutting almost every night ... we have to be open to critique internal or external, it is the only way to improve.”