Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people, traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and educational purposes. Oliver Goldsmith said once, "A man who leaves home to mend him and others is a philosopher; but he who goes from country to country, guided by the blind impulse of curiosity, is a vagabond."
Tourism has become a popular global leisure activity. In 2011, there were over 983 million international tourist arrivals worldwide, representing a growth of 4.6% when compared to 940 million in 2010.
Tourism is important, and in some cases, vital for many countries. It was recognized in the Manila Declaration on World Tourism of 1980 as "an activity essential to the life of nations because of its direct effects on the social, cultural, educational and economic sectors of national societies and on their international relations."
Tourism brings in large amounts of income in payment for goods and services available, accounting for 30% of the world's exports of services, and 6% of overall exports of goods and services. It also creates opportunities for employment in the service sector of the economy, associated with tourism. These service industries include transportation services, such as airlines, cruise ships and taxicabs; hospitality services, such as accommodations, including hotels and resorts; and entertainment venues, such as amusement parks, shopping malls, music venues and theatres.
The United Nations' World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) decided in late September 1979 to institute World Tourism Day, which was first celebrated on September 27, 1980. September 27 was chosen as the date for World Tourism Day because that date coincided with an important milestone in world tourism: the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on September 27, 1970.
The UNWTO invites people worldwide to participate in World Tourism Day on September 27 every year. Tourism has experienced continued growth and deeper diversification to become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world.
Identically, tourism was once a significant business in Afghanistan. In the 1970s, about 120,000 tourists visited the country each year, generating millions of dollars in income for Afghan. Today, the governmental Afghan Tourism Organization estimates that only between 3,000 and 4,000 tourists visit the country each year. This figure is declining hastily, with growing insurgency and insecurity. If Afghanistan is to stand on its own economically, many here hope it will be because of people the world over coming here to see an ancient culture steeped in 5,000 years of civilization and brimming with historic treasures, gorgeous landscapes and rare wildlife.
The tourism industry of Afghanistan, developed with government help in the early 1970s, has been negligible since 1979 to till-date due to internal political instability and some negligence on the part ministry of culture and heritage.
On the eve of celebration of World Tourism Day, I am jolted with giant tourist site of Bamiyan, suffering twice at the hand of concerned political elites and international organization, going unnoticed through the length of recent history. Bamiyan in central Afghanistan has one of the most beautiful landscapes and natural settings in the world. The two famous Buddha statues (36 m & 53 m high) dating from 3rd and 5th centuries are located in Bamiyan. The ruined Buddhas are the main reason that most people visit Bamiyan.
Created in the 6th century, they were the largest in the world and a pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Over the centuries they were damaged by various invaders, and in 2001 the Taliban declared them 'un-Islamic', rolled in tanks and destroyed them completely. All that remains are the 'footprints'. But there are many interesting caves and within many of the caves have remains of painted frescos.
Despite the loss of these archaeological treasures, the cave network of monasteries that honeycomb the cliffs, as well as Bamiyan's spectacular mountains and alpine lakes, continue to attract a trickle of both Afghan and foreign tourists.
Buddha symbolizes its inhabitant's identity, being the great patron of art and moderation. Our culture promotes peace and harmony; dwindled by heinous suppressions and atrocities in history reiterated through the course of history than warring tribesmen harboring ancient hatreds and practicing medieval codes of honor.
Tourism is one of the greatest economic hopes for reviving this isolated, yet visually and archaeologically, stunning part of Afghanistan, a region that has seen little infrastructure development over the last eight years, even though Bamiyan is one of the safest parts of the country.
Modern tourism is closely linked to development and includes more new destinations for tourists. These dynamics turned tourism into a key driver for socio-ýeconomic progress.Tourism has become one of the major players in ýinternational commerce, and represents at the same time one of the main income ý sources for many developing countries.
This year World Tourism Day 2012 will be celebrated around the theme Tourism & Sustainable Energy: Powering Sustainable Development. Tourism is leading the way in some of the world's most innovative sustainable energy initiatives. Energy efficient upgrades to aircraft, the shift to renewable fuel for aviation and cruise liners, energy technology solutions in hotels, as well as countless other initiatives are placing tourism at the forefront of the clean energy transformation.
Sustainable tourism can be seen as having regard to ecological and socio-cultural carrying capacities and includes involving the community of the destination in tourism development planning. It also involves integrating tourism to match current economic and growth policies so as to mitigate some of the negative economic and social impacts of 'mass tourism'.
Well-informed elected representative and departmental officials, investors and other key decision-makers are more likely to make decisions and develop policies that better account for the needs of the tourism industry. An understanding and acknowledgment of the diverse socio-economic benefits of tourism will assist in attracting funding, and in the strategic management and allocation of community resources. In addition, raising awareness amongst elected officials at all levels of government should assist when they are addressing issues that affect tourism in a local community.
Many of the benefits of tourism, especially the economic ones, are increasingly appreciated by the local community. In addition, the benefits of tourism are not felt instantly and there is no immediate response to changes or implementation of policy.
Holding a Tourism related program, is a very good way to boost local understanding of tourism and its importance to the community, tourism advocacy needs to be undertaken on a continual and ongoing basis if it is to effect change. For this to occur under the limitations of fragmentation, low communication skills and limited resources requires outside guidance.
Observers here say that to truly expand tourism, the government must improve security on roads and accommodate commercial airlines rather than relying on the humanitarian flights that come and go. They also must attract private investors who have a major stake in business success rather than looking for handouts from the international community.
The writer is educationalist, social and human rights activist. He can be reached at email@example.com
The Daily Outlook, 2 October 2012