A Lahori entrepreneur came up with an innovative idea of tourism, she has started a “slum tourism” company. The idea is unique in its kind so it faced a lot of mixed criticism on it.
The Local Wanderer, a Pakistani tour company, for using slums as a source of entertainment for the rich people? Or there is something more to it? Let’s find out what this company has to offer and what kind of views people have regarding this start up.
This slum tour company is founded by Sundas Amjad. Sundus gave up a lucrative career as a consultant to work at Pakistan Development Exchange, an NGO which sets up community centers in slumabadis of Lahore and Islamabad and connects the people of the communities with the resources they may need for a better life.
Those having a hard time paying school fee are connected to a relevant NGO which can help with their case and those who have food-related issues are connected to a relevant organization to help them out.
The company take the tour for the visit of slum areas in Lahore and help them to spend with these unprivileged people. Tourists from all over the world can come and learn a lot from these tours and locals will be able to understand the problems of the country on ground level.
Sundus works with Pakistan Development Exchange, their community centers have data on each and every household in the community in terms of their haves and have nots.
They then pair them with a family that wants to spend some time in these slums. The family partaking in this as a donor is bound to financially help the family they spend time with for at least two years to help them out of their circumstances.
To respect the privacy of the inhabitants of the slums who partake in this program, Sundus says they do not take pictures while on tours or let anyone else know what they are doing.
The company is getting a lot of criticism as it is considered insensitive to make people misery your market. To this criticism, Sundas Amjad replied in an interview that “while the term may sound insensitive when heard without context, I don’t mind the criticism.”
“The term,” Sundus said, ” is considered controversial in a lot of circles across the globe but the prejudice exists because of historic connotations around it. The term also does the job; it makes people notice and takes another look at her initiative.”
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Contrary to popular belief, running a tour company in Pakistan is not an easy job, esp for a woman, taking into account it being a male dominated industry. It's so much more than the fancy mountain selfies, chai with a view stories & the check ins. So much goes behind making a trip perfect for your client, given the phones don't work in most of the scenic regions, the hotel staff is not trained to service clients, the lack of regulation in the hotel & entertainment industry of the region and a gazillion other things that account for a perfect vacation. Growing up, I was never interested in account management or client servicing because at times you hear stuff which is just not right and you do not deserve it. Tourism industry is a whole new level of client servicing. Being there with the client 24/7. Managing the long road trips and the mood swings because of the exertion that follow. No matter how hard you try, you can never prepare the client enough for it. For clients who are aware & open, it's a whole new level of adventure for them and for us as hosts. For the ones not used to it, the only time you get off to plan the next set of activities or the next day is when you've successfully put them to bed. Keeping your individuality & your emotions aside becomes a norm. Catching up on your sleep during lunch breaks while sitting doesn't seem that odd anymore. The mountains stop being your resting place. Always remember, when engaging a tour company for your trip, you pay for tour management & not the price of the person/persons making it happen. Alot of the times people come with a perception that you've bought the other person, which is not the case. We forget to operate like humans. The Local Wanderer is proud to be the pioneer of the concept of Live like a local, with the locals – Be Pakistan, where we don't take the client as an outsider but a part of the same family. Human engagement & interactions lie at the core of the planning & execution. We don't play the host. We play the friends from another city/country vacationing with you to show you our side of the world – Our culture, our history, our music, our food & our people. 1/2
Sundus herself is a big believer in doing good. Having to drop out of university when her father fell victim to target killing in Karachi over ten years ago, she fondly recalls her father’s own philanthropy, which she attributes to her own interest in the sector.
According to Sundus, she has found her calling in life and can’t wait to do more in this field. While some may not agree with what Sundus is doing, thinking it is exploitative of the low-income families in the program or represents a negative image of Pakistan, Sundus is confident in her mission. She is helping dozens of families better their circumstances and helping people empathize with one another.