BAMIYAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Gruelling efforts by Afghan troops have brought peace and safety to Bamiyan, making it a prized Afghan destination for tourists and boosting the country’s economy, authorities are saying.
Residents and officials welcome the message implicit in a rebound of terrorism, namely, that the province’s lasting legacy will not be the March 2001 destruction of ancient giant statues of Buddha by the Taliban.
“Bamiyan has made tremendous progress since the ouster of the Taliban,” said Bamiyan Police Chief Khudayar Qudos. “One of the sectors that flourished most is the tourism, and it won’t be an exaggeration to say that the tourism infrastructure and facilities have been upgraded up to global standards.”
Security forces are working hard, patrolling cities and protecting the province’s citizens and visitors, he said.
The Afghan National Army (ANA) has regained the trust of the population, Abdullah Barat, a Bamiyan resident, told Central Asia Online.
“Because of the sacrifices of the people and Afghan security forces, now Bamiyan is the most visited tourist hub in the country,” Bamiyan Provincial Council member Haider Ali Ahmadi told Central Asia Online.
Bamiyan expects thousands of tourists this year
Unique geography and appealing historical sites have made Bamiyan a prime destination, Qudos said.
About 1,000 to 1,500 foreign tourists visit Bamiyan yearly, according to information from airport authorities, Haji Ghulam Mohammad Saveez, director of Afghan tours in the Ministry of Information and Culture, said.
The number could triple this year, authorities predict.
Because of insecurity in the past decade, Bamiyan lost many potential visitors, but it is ready again to greet tourists, Saveez said. Some travellers want to see war-torn parts of the country, he added.
More than 200 guesthouses and 650 tourism companies operate there now, with jobs for 9,000 Afghans, he said.
Tourism season starts in May and continues until September, Ahmadi said.
The Afghan Tours Department recently began a widespread advertising campaign to attract Afghan and foreign tourists. It has issued magazines, brochures, pamphlets and documentaries about the country’s historical sites and distributes them through various travel agencies.
Band-i-Amir said to be province’s top destination
One of Bamiyan’s top sites is Band-i-Amir, the country’s first national park, which is known for its series of six deep lakes and attracts visitors from around the world.
Situated in mountains 80km northwest of Bamiyan city, the park with its lakes and seven dams mesmerises tourists.
Band-i-Amir became a national park in May 2009 and is a candidate for UNESO’s World Heritage List.
Summer is the busiest season in the province, Zaman Ahmadi, a spokesman for the governor, told Central Asia Online. About 700 families living on the outskirts of the park are the main beneficiaries of the tourism season, he said. The families sell embroideries, handicrafts, and dairy products and ferry the tourists to Band-e-Amir.
Developed infrastructure will boost tourism
Establishing reliable air and ground transport and rebuilding monuments and facilities for tourists will stimulate tourism and generate revenue and jobs, citizens and officials say.
They have begun some work on this matter. Recently, nonstop airline service between Kabul and Bamiyan began, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Workers are rebuilding historic sites and building tourist facilities in many provinces, said Kabir Dadras, chief of information and culture in the Bamiyan government.
“Afghanistan generates US $4 to 7 billion (237.8 to 416.1 billion AFN) in revenue from tourism each year, but we need to do more to increase that number,” he said. “The tourism directorate is making efforts to establish a tourism policy.”
Tourists gather near a reservoir in Bamiyan Province in January. After the fall of the Taliban, the Afghan government has restored the beauty of Bamiyan, boosting tourism in the province, officials say.
Source: By Izazullah