Contributors: Laiba Paracha and Aiman Manzoor
Tourism has become a vital source of earning for our country, once depleted almost entirely due to relentless security threats and the lack of proper infrastructure. However, traveling, a main part of tourism has augmented at a fast pace, due to increased globalisation in the recent years. Students, who put in rigorous efforts to achieve their academic goals, need a break in order to continue performing well. If we talk about LUMS, there are large number of trips that go every year (to be more specific, once every week). It is imperative for the mental health of students, and for exploring the mesmerising beauty of Pakistan. However, there are a number of factors that need to be present in order to make the journey safe, for LUMS or any other institution, because the travel groups work pretty much in the same style.
To gain more insight about the inner workings of a travelling group, we spoke candidly with Umar Farooq, who heads the travel company “KhanaBadosh”.
“It’s all about the contacts,” The veteran traveller and LUMS alumnus tells us. Experience is the most valuable asset any traveler can have, and this applies to travelling groups as a given. Experience promises safety, and safety inspires confidence in a market. Travelling itself is an adventure, and there is, as such, something to be gained for both those who enjoy taking risks, and those who prefer a steadfast sense of order.
Experience also saves money, and that’s a plus for any business, anywhere in the world. How? Contacts.
“Having the right contacts can ensure you get the best deal for your money, in terms of transport, lodgings, food, even the best trails to hike or the shortest route to get somewhere.”
We asked about the popularity of travel groups and what constituted the target audience.
“The target audience can range anywhere from children to the elderly. I’ve got a group of senior citizens who I consider regulars now, for how often they come on the trips. Travelling isn’t just for the young and the fit. Anyone can enjoy it.”
A keen favourite amongst children was Murree, with Nathia Gali and Bhurban being popular amongst O/A level and FSc students, and areas like Naran Khan, Gilgit, Nanga Parbat and the ever popular and beautiful fairy meadows being the most popular areas visited by university students. Adults embarking on the trips with their families showed a preference for areas like Hunza, Skardu, and Kashmir, along with the aforementioned locations.
With a distribution this vast, we had a mild observation to make. What of the scenic beauty of other areas in Pakistan, towards the south, or Baluchistan, that remains largely unexplored by a number of travel groups. The answer to this was in the travelling distance.
“There are never enough people willing to travel that far, for that long, when other destinations are closer at hand, and, to an extent, easier and cheaper to reach.”
What else did we learn is integral for running a travel group?
Approachability and flexibility, checked by punctuality and order. The key to a good trip is to let every traveller make their own memories, and adding a short trek to reach a location of scenic beauty isn’t discouraged, but all this should be done with careful calculation of how it affects the trip. Impulsivity is welcome, but only in small doses.
Another important component to running a travel group is having each group leader familiar and friendly with the locals of the area.
“Befriending the locals can literally save a life. At any point of emergency or injury, they are helpful and efficient, and never stingy in offering their assistance.”
This is all to protect the symbiotic relationship between the travellers and the locals, as many of them work in local craft stores, in order to benefit from the influx of tourists.
To conclude, it’s important to remember that our country needs different sources of money in order to grow and propel towards success, and traveling provides one such source. Apart from this, the country has a lot of unexplored natural scenery ranging from highlands and tall mountains in the north, to the deserts and barren lands in the south. Age isn’t an important factor when it comes to traveling – all it takes is passion and an urge to discover different areas of Pakistan.
A certain level of harmony and understanding between the travellers, guides and locals is imperative for the success of the tourism industry, because all these factors are complementary to each other. LUMS, by taking students to different places, aims to alleviate their anxiety due to academic pressures and deadlines, show them the alluring beauty that their country holds within itself and familiarise them with different cultures and values. The practice can also do to expand their knowledge and mould their perspectives.