Soft image: Pakistan needs more female tourism entrepreneurs

ISLAMABAD  Female mountaineering and trekking entrepreneurs can lure droves of female tourists to Pakistan annually to explore its lofty peaks and mountains, circuitous passes, and hiking areas.
The promotion of this trend can fetch a great fortune for Pakistan through proper planning from the grass root level. The women in such areas are proving themselves active entrepreneurs and this profession is also bringing socio-economic change at a great level in their communities. Pakistan like Nepal can also earn a handsome foreign exchange by enhancing the contribution of female entrepreneurs.
Talking to WealthPK, Shama Baqir, an entrepreneur in mountaineering and trekking, said, “For women, mountaineering and trekking both are non-traditional professions to adopt in Pakistan. But now, a good number of women from my area are involved in this profession as entrepreneurs. To be a successful entrepreneur in this profession is my passion. So, to be a good professional, I have completed my diploma and master’s degree in tourism and hospitality management. Recently, I led a successful expedition to Shimshal pass and got a handsome earning.’’
Continuing the discussion, she said, ‘’Shimshal is my native area as well, located at the Pak-China border. I had no difficulty adopting this profession because the literacy rate and awareness among women are excellent like the women in Hunza. People are also well cooperating and encouraging here to support women as an active part of economic activities. As a licensed guide, I also lead expeditions, but before becoming a leader, I participated in many expeditions with Mr. Abdul Joshi’s team who is also an expert mountaineer and trekker. I want to say that the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) should arrange special conferences related to mountaineering and trekking in real places to make them more fruitful rather than arranging them in cities like Islamabad and Karachi.’’
Shama said invitations to foreign tourists, mountaineers, and trekkers to visit related areas will create more interest in them to explore Pakistan.
‘’The use of social media is not frequent here, as telecommunication does not remain regularly stable due to an uncertain weather. So, arranging such programs in related areas will bring more awareness. It will energize people to learn modern professional approaches for their socio-economic benefit. Because it is the major source of income in these areas,’’ added Shama.
In a discussion with WealthPK, Samana Rahim, mountaineer and trekker, ice and rock-climbing instructor and second licensed female tourist guide in Pakistan, said, “I am working as an entrepreneur; it’s a nice profession. Since 2016, I have hiked many altitudes, rocks, and passes. The government must focus on establishing proper training institutes for females besides arranging promotion campaigns at the international level. To attract female tourists and adventure lovers, more females must join this field. In 2019, I led a foreign mountaineer lady and she appreciated it. But still, female foreigners hesitate to come here due to low promotion at the government level.’’
‘’Building a soft image of the country is very necessary, so that they may feel at home in all aspects, i.e., security, residence facilities, ease in visa processing, proper restaurants, washrooms, and total information guidance to trekking areas. From April to October, the ice season is at its peak but due to less promotion, the tourist and climber flow is far lesser than its capacity. Even then, people are earning handsomely through expeditions and other related activities. Females are joining this profession, but proper facilitation will attract more to join this field. It will help them earn a handsome livelihood like in Nepal and add their share to increase the GDP and foreign exchange for the country.”
Talking to WealthPK, mountaineer and trekker Muhammad Abdul Joshi said, “To boost the mountaineering and trekking tourism in Pakistan, proper orientation and training sessions for the young generation, especially for females, are very important. It will not only help to teach them the use of modern tactics and equipment, but also improve the trust of expeditors. Nepal is earning a smart foreign exchange through capacity-building and boosting the professional approach of its trekkers and people related to this profession. A lot of modern institutions for skill building related to this profession, especially for females, are established there and they are bringing a socio-economic change there. Females take part in expeditions and trekking very actively. About 8 to 10 females are a regular part of my team.’’
Joshi said a long time ago, a little funding was issued to the alpine clubs for promotion of mountaineering and trekking but now it was not so. To encourage more females to join this profession in Pakistan, more platforms like the Alpine Club must be established and funded by the government as happens in other countries.
Continuing the discussion, Joshi said tour operators could bring a great number of tourists, who are fond of both trekking and mountaineering.
‘’They pay fees to government to trek or to hike any peak. Even the Pakistani citizens are not exempted from fees. I also pay fees whenever I lead an expedition to K-2 or any other peak or pass. In these areas, it is the most regular practice for people to earn a livelihood. I have been trekking for the last 17 years and yet there is no proper club, especially for females, in the country. So, I have established my own organization ‘The Pakistan Youth Empowerment Foundation’ in Gilgit, as it is my native town. I voluntarily train the young generation equally but my focus is mostly on training the female community members. In training sessions, women exceed men in terms of their participation. They are more enthusiastic to be entrepreneurs in this field.’’