If you've been following Atif Khan, PTI Minister for Tourism on Instagram, you'll know he's been promoting the Pakistan Tourism Summit. It's a great way to give a nod to the local tourism industry and travel bloggers who've been boosting the country's image.
However, the event which is currently being held in Islamabad from April 2nd to the 3rd, seems to only feature international travel bloggers. Reportedly, they have been invited to the event — some to also speak at the summit, while local bloggers haven't.
Among the invited are Trevor James (@thefoodranger), Mark Wiens (@migrationology), Eva zu Beck (@evazubeck), Rosie Gabrielle (@rosiegabrielle), Alex Reynolds (@lostwithpurpose) and Amel Lamloum (@iamlema_).
Images has reached out to PTI Minister for Tourism Atif Khan for clarification, and is awaiting a response.
Meanwhile, local travel bloggers are upset for being excluded, and have started airing their protests on social media.
Mystapaki's Bilal Hassan said, "As a travel blogger who has dedicated a large part of his life to help tourism flourish in Pakistan, I am quite disappointed, to be honest. A lot of us have worked very hard on the ground to try and get people to visit the country. Its been an uphill task but we’ve never given up. It’s a shame that tourism is finally thriving in the country and, we the local travel influencers who have been instrumental in making this happen, have been largely ignored and sidelined by official entities. At the end of the day we all want Pakistan to become a tourist haven, however we can’t do that without empowering or engaging with the local population."
Urooj Hussain of threedayweekend.life told Images, "It's great that foreign travellers are visiting Pakistan and producing great content here - I hope it continues and grows - however it's really unfair to ignore the large number of local bloggers/content creators who have been exploring and showcasing Pakistan for many years prior. Why do we need to seek 100 percent external validation on how amazing Pakistan is instead of having a healthy combo of local and foreign bloggers?"
"I think Atif Khan should support and promote local social media influencers/travelers as we are the ones who took the initiative and travelled around Pakistan and showcased its beauty when no one would even think about traveling here. As a Pakistani, I am glad to see that international travelers/ vloggers are coming to Pakistan, it's great but we must not forget the efforts of all the local travels/ influencers," Shariq Raza said.
Anam Hakeem, known for her account Girl With Green Passport, added, "I have mixed feelings. On one hand I’m happy that such events are now happening and that international influencers are coming in. But the local community (travellers & photographers) and myself are upset at our government for not having local representation in an event of this magnitude. Local content creators are working really hard not just to showcase Pakistan but also help international influencers when they message us wanting to come here; from visa to taking them around the cities, guiding them. Also a big part of why international influencers are considering Pakistan is because there is a ton of beautiful local content available online that Pakistani creators have put up."
Areesha Khan stated, "It was disappointing to see that our leading local social media/travel influencers and bloggers weren’t in the list, since after all it IS PAKISTAN Tourism Summit. Having a well-balanced team of all these talented foreign and local influencers would’ve been a better approach for such an event. Moreover, it would’ve given the local influencers a platform to share their experiences and be recognised, while also fulfilling the purpose of the summit."
Some of the foreign bloggers featured have also aired their opinions about the issue:
Alex posted on her IG 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 and others stat 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."
Eva zu Beck also posted her grievances on Instagram, "There's been some conversation about local influencers not being included in this event. I do agree that more should have been included."
This is just the most recent incident which points to how foreign travel bloggers have been prioritised over Pakistani bloggers by the government and by corporations when it comes to promoting Pakistan itself.
A double standard does exist when it comes to foreign bloggers versus local ones; earlier this year foreigner Cynthia B Ritchie posted a picture of herself riding a bike in Peshawar after which people began praising her for doing so. Commentators on social media observed that if a Pakistani woman had done the same, she would have been harassed on the street, or possibly shamed for moving around in a public space.
This double standard is what is forcing people to question why local bloggers aren't being offered key positions in conferences or in advertisements, positions that often come with perks such as hefty financial rewards or even just opportunities for networking.
Images has reached out to the minister for tourism and is awaitng a response.