By: Mirza Ahmad Ebrahimi: The author is a PhD research scholar in India.
In the global economy, tourism is one of the most noticeable and growing sectors. This sector plays an important role in boosting a nation’s economy. An increase in tourism flow can bring positive economic outcomes to the nations, especially in the gross domestic product (GDP) and employment opportunities. The idea behind sustainable tourism is to visit the locations without harming the local community and nature and also have some constructive impact on the environment, society, as well as the economy of the country. In many countries, the tourism industry remains an important source of generation of employment and income in formal and informal sectors. Moreover, the tourism industry can generate a huge amount of foreign exchange that could also boost its sustainable growth and development.
Afghanistan is recognized as a distinctive region with grandeur snowcapped mountains, ancient religious monuments to scenic beauty, rivers, and assorted climatic conditions, which makes the country even more attractive, despite having great tourism potential and still experiencing a weak economy due to other circumstances. There is a great opportunity in the country for the tourism industry to be used as a tool for her economic development. Afghanistan may adopt suitable policies for attracting international tourists. As per the World Tourism Organization in 2018, international tourists spent $1.3 billion per day. In most countries, the revenue from the industry especially international tourism is considered a substitute for export earnings and contributes a lot to their balance of payment. There is a high potential for international tourists to visit Afghanistan in the following areas if other factors remain stable.
Rugged mountains in Afghanistan some with high peaks in the world covering 85 percent of the land surface can play a magnificent role in tourism attraction. Undoubtedly the Buddha of Bamiyan, the most well-known landmark of the ancient heritage was once the tallest standing Buddha in the world can be a central destination for a cultural, historical, and religious touristic site for international visitors which brings lots of economic and trade opportunities along, the same goes with Minaret Jam in Ghor, Herat, Ghazni and Balkh provinces respectively.
To utilize the aforesaid sites and opportunities for revenue generation and employment opportunities, one must conserve the touristic destination places away from venturesome elements. If we take a look at other countries to see how they have perpetuated the historical sites and used them not only as a symbol of peace but as an earning source too. One such example is the Taj Mahal in India one of the world’s most visited places. Pakistan has well-protected the pre-Islamic sites like Takht-e-Bahiin Khyber and other Buddhism monuments to promote its economy, it has also launched a “Visit Pakistan” marketing campaign for religious and cultural tourists as a source of revenue. Furthermore, Turkey an Islamic country has been successful in nurturing pre-Islamic monuments and historical destinations which highly contributed to making the country a tourism hub in Asia. Afghanistan too can safeguard and convert Bamyan valley of UNESCO and Minaret Jam for the same purpose. Unfortunately, due to the unwanted circumstances and situations, some groups without the notice of the government carry out excavation and construction near historical sites which put the country’s most precious wealth in danger of disappearance.
To conclude the momentousness of tourist significance for a country’s earnings, Sri Lanka which is now in economic crisis can be suggested as an example. International tourists were the third largest source of foreign currency for Sri Lanka in 2018, the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic hit the recreation industry the most, and the loss of income from such industry contributed to the country’s financial collapse. Meanwhile, studies show that the tourist industry accounts for 7.6 percent of the job market in 2018 in South Asian countries. Hence, it is the duty of every one of us to protect historical heritages which remained as a gift from our ancestors and to convert such unproductive sites into productive engines to wheel economic prosperity. Unfortunately, due to civil war and foreign interferences Afghanistan has lost some of its historical monuments while some were displaced. To underline the whole loss by outlining a part- the loss of a monument from the Ashoka empire in Kandahar province is can be cited as an example of such cultural and historical damage where a stone plaque which had 14 of Ashoka empire edicts in Greek were excavated and found in Kandahar’s old bazaar and sold in the black market. This history represents the richness of Afghanistan’s history and diversified culture; its further destruction should be avoided.