By: Mirza Ahmad Ebrahimi: The author is a doctoral researcher in India.
In the global economy, tourism is one of the most remarkable and growing sectors. This sector plays an important role in reviving a country’s economy. An increase in tourist flow can bring positive economic outcomes to nations, especially in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) and job opportunities. The idea behind sustainable tourism is to visit places without harming the local community and nature and also having a constructive impact on the environment, society and economy of the country. In many countries, the tourism industry remains an important source of job creation and income in the formal and informal sectors. Moreover, the tourism industry can generate a huge amount of foreign exchange which could also boost its sustainable growth and development.
Afghanistan is recognized as a distinct region with awe-inspiring snow-capped mountains, ancient religious monuments with scenic beauty, rivers and varied climatic conditions, which makes the country even more attractive, despite great tourist potential and a economy still weak due to other circumstances. There is a great opportunity in the country for the tourism industry to be used as a tool for its economic development. Afghanistan could adopt appropriate policies to attract international tourists. According to the World Tourism Organization in 2018, international tourists spent $1.3 billion per day. In most countries, income from industry, especially international tourism, is considered a substitute for export earnings and contributes significantly to their balance of payments. There is a strong potential for international tourists to visit Afghanistan in the following areas if other factors remain stable.
The rugged mountains of Afghanistan, some of which with the highest peaks in the world covering 85% of the earth’s surface, can play a magnificent role in tourist attraction. Undoubtedly, the Bamiyan Buddha, the most famous monument of ancient heritage was once the largest standing Buddha in the world. It can be a central destination for cultural, historical and religious tourist spot for international visitors which brings a lot of economy and trade. opportunities, the same goes for Minaret Jam in the provinces of Ghor, Herat, Ghazni and Balkh respectively.
To utilize the aforementioned sites and opportunities for income generation and employment opportunities, one must keep the tourist destination places away from the adventurous elements. If we take a look at other countries to see how they have perpetuated historic sites and used them not only as a symbol of peace but also as a source of income. One such example is the Taj Mahal in India, one of the most visited places in the world. Pakistan has well protected pre-Islamic sites like Takht-e-Bahiin Khyber and other Buddhist monuments to promote its economy, it has also launched “Visit Pakistan” marketing campaign for religious and cultural tourists as a source of income. Furthermore, Turkey, an Islamic country, has managed to maintain pre-Islamic monuments and historical destinations which have greatly contributed to making the country a tourism hub in Asia. Afghanistan too can save and convert UNESCO’s Bamyan Valley and Minaret Jam for the same purpose. Unfortunately, due to undesirable circumstances and situations, some groups without the advice of the government carry out excavations and constructions near historical sites that put the country’s most precious wealth in danger of disappearing.
To conclude on the capital importance of tourism for the income of a country, Sri Lanka, which is currently in economic crisis, can be suggested as an example. International tourists were the third largest source of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka in 2018, the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the leisure industry the most and the loss of income from this industry has contributed to the financial collapse from the country. At the same time, studies show that the tourism industry represents 7.6% of the labor market in 2018 in South Asian countries. Therefore, it is the duty of each of us to protect the historical legacies that have remained as a gift from our ancestors and convert these unproductive sites into productive engines for economic prosperity. Unfortunately, due to civil war and foreign interference, Afghanistan has lost some of its historical monuments while others have been moved. To underline the whole loss by describing a part – the loss of a monument of the Ashoka empire in Kandahar province can be cited as an example of such cultural and historical damage where a stone plaque containing 14 edicts of the empire Ashoka in Greek was excavated. and found in Kandahar’s Old Bazaar and sold on the black market. This story represents the rich history and diverse culture of Afghanistan; its subsequent destruction must be avoided.