166 nations try to lure tourists

MADRID: Brave a few “security problems” and trek the mountain ranges of Pakistan, take a vacation in Kuwait where the sand is very, very hot or risk a bit of heli-skiing in Uzbekistan.If you are a tourist ready to go somewhere a bit different, there is a growing queue of destinations desperate to welcome you; 166 nations jostled for attention this week at the World Tourism Trade Fair in Madrid. Pakistan International Airlines joined for the first time, keen to get some of the action from 200,000 trade and general public visitors anticipated at the five-day fair ending on Sunday.“We are here to promote our new route from Barcelona to Chicago,” two cities with large Pakistani communities, said the airline’s Spain Director, Saleemullah Shahani. “We also wanted to show that Pakistan still exists for tourism, even if the situation is complicated right now,” he added, conceding there are some “security problems”.Rising religious extremism is a grave concern in Pakistan, where this month Punjab governor was shot and killed by his own bodyguard because he wanted to amend stringent anti-blasphemy legislation.And any tourists will probably want to steer clear of the tribal belt of northwestern Pakistan, suspected by Western intelligence agencies to be the global centre of Osama Bin Laden’s al Qaeda.“Before 2009 we used to take many tourists to Pakistan to go to the mountains, which are more beautiful than in Switzerland. Now there are still tourists but very few,” Shahani said.Pakistan is also keen to foster business tourism, he said. Next month, PIA will take executives from leading Spanish department store chain El Corte Ingles, he said. Spanish clothing chain Zara has already taken a tour; its interest was cheap production of shoes and clothes.For Kuwait, the challenge is to show off its natural heritage and erase a cliche conception of the country.“Everyone knows us as a petroleum country,” lamented state tourism undersecretary Ali Abdullah al Baghli.“We have the nicest deserts in the world, clear skies, a very beautiful coast with sandy beaches and even if the temperature is more than 50 (Celsius, or 122 Farenheit) in July and August, it’s dry heat so it’s like we are in heaven – Dailytimes