Tourism Research titled, “Impediments and Threats faced by Tourism Industries of South Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe,” conducted by The Region Initiative (TRI) has indicated that countries of South Asia, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe need some immediate actions from respective governments to manage dangerous mushroom growth of foreign-invested mass tourism projects in fragile lands of these regions. Action is also needed immediately for maximum involvement of two major stakeholders of the tourism industry in policy making and implementation that are respective local communities (community-based tourism organizations, etc.) and tour operators who are actually producing tourism revenue for these countries.
The research was conducted through questionnaires, background interviews, and recommendations received from tour operators, non-government organizations, community-based tourism organizations, and other stakeholders of Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Armenia. The research was coordinated by Agha Iqrar Haroon, former Consultant to the Ministry of Tourism Governments of Pakistan and President of The Region Initiative
(TRI), and the report was reviewed by Mr. Vladimir M. Grigoryan, CEO of DA Tours Travel Agency Armenia.
Recommendations of this research also indicate that the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) should share the reports of the Ministerial Meetings of the Silk Road project with other stakeholders of the tourism industry of these countries so the private sector can know and understand what the major impediments are in the way of tourist-friendly visa regimes among these countries and suggest solutions to mitigate the situation.
The introduction of tourism as a subject in the curriculum of secondary education and legislation for participation of women in the tourism industry is also included in the recommendations.
It may be mentioned that a synopsis and blueprint of this research was based on recommendations and issues discussed during the two-day Tashkent Conference held by TRI during November 2011 at Tashkent, Uzbekistan, that was attended by tourism stakeholders of Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
World tourism experts also participated in this Conference via Skype.
Recommendations were as follows:
Macro Level – Category A
Policy 1: The governments should support the establishment of community-based organizations (CBOs) and assist them in developing community-based tourism (CBT) projects in remote and fragile areas to avoid mass tourism.
Policy 2: Governments should support small stakeholders of the tourism sector to ensure that money does not go out from the local economies through foreign or national investors who construct mega hotels, tourism resorts, and introduce mass activities in fragile areas, and local communities do not have such resources to compete with big investors.
Policy 4: The governments should include tourism as a subject in the curriculum of secondary education.
Policy 5: UNWTO should share the reports of Ministerial Meetings of the Silk Road project to other stakeholders of the tourism industry of these countries so the private sector can know what the major impediments are in the way of tourist-friendly visa regimes among these countries and may discuss such issues with their respective governments.
Legislation – Category B
Policy 1: The governments should encourage and ensure employment for women in the tourism sector through legislation.
Policy 2: The governments should provide the necessary legislation in respect of updating and modernizing the existing tourism acts, and bring in laws supporting the tourism sector in upgrading standards at all levels.
Policy 3: The governments should enact legislation that should accord tourism the full status of an industry, and that all facilities would be treated as industrial concerns and would qualify for the same benefits, interest rates, concessions, and treatment as is extended to other recognized industries.
Visa and Security – Category C
Policy 1: Visa at cross-border check posts should be provided to foreigners while traveling to and from in the whole of South Asia, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe if one visa regime is not possible due to political and security reasons. All governments can follow UNWTO recommendations regarding visa issues in Central Asia as their guidelines.
Policy 2: The governments should review all the security constraints and requirements to facilitate the free movement of tourists in Pamir Knot (Afghanistan – Tajikistan – Pakistan).
Policy 3: The government of Pakistan should release its own travel advisory and indicate troubled areas where tourists should not travel that are mostly in the region of Pashtun-dominated areas, including Swat Valley, Peshawar, Karakuram Highway (KKH), Dir, and Chitral Valley.
Policy 4: The governments should allow easier visa requirements with automatic issue of 30-day tourist visas with double entry to bona fide tourists when they are traveling in Central Asian republics to boost tourism in countries like Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan that do not have appropriate international connectivity with important airports. If Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan provide a double-entry visa to tourists, there are chances that tourists will also travel to neighboring countries and back home from Uzbek and Kazakh airports that are effectively linked with international flight routes.
Facilitation to Tour Operators and Investors – Category D
Policy 1: The governments should provide access to tour operators at arrival and departure halls of all airports to allow them to handle and facilitate their tourist clients.
Policy 2: The governments should establish a “one window” system of formalities for international and domestic tourism investors.
Policy 3: The governments should review the existing range of taxes on the tourism sector and implement a rationalized system to consolidate and reduce the number of tax/fee collecting mechanisms.
Policy 4: The governments should provide the mechanisms for a portion of the taxes levied on the tourism sector to be reinvested for the marketing and promotion of tourism and environmental protection.
Policy 5: The governments should extend the policy for the importation of capital equipment at concessionary rates free of import duty including tourists buses, coaches, electrical kitchens, and ski equipments.
Policy 6: The governments should develop a task force comprised of tour operators to review infrastructural improvement of roads, rail, and airports to ensure that all tourist areas are accessible and standard facilities are provided.
Policy 7: The governments should support destination marketing by implementing the medium-term marketing strategy.
Policy 8: The governments should initiate a specific strategy to improve the tourism image of the country abroad by a series of measures linked to the medium-term marketing strategy.
Policy 9: The governments should ensure the availability of governments lands on long lease at nominal cost for setting up tourism sector projects, but such lands shall not be used for hotel and concrete structure constructions and shall only be used as camp sites, parks, and ecotourism resorts using a 100 percent indigenous construction style and materials.
Policy 10: The governments should fully support the strategy of frequent tourism surveys to ensure that updated market intelligence is available to inform and direct the marketing and promotional trust.
Environmental Awareness – Category E
Policy 1: The governments should support the capacity building of the environment and physical planning sectors, including a complete review of the institutional and legal framework.
Policy 2: The governments, seeking to encourage creative and “environmentally-friendly” designs, should introduce guidelines on expected quantitative and qualitative standards for tourism development.
Policy 3: The governments should monitor and evaluate the effects of tourism development in natural and cultural environments.
Policy 4: The governments should approve and implement the bio-diversity action plan, which includes conservation and protection of the natural environment.
Policy 5: The governments should support an Environmental Awareness Program throughout all government sectors, local communities, and schools.