Call to promote trans-boundary travel among SAARC countries

photo: Dwarika Kafle

Kathmandu: Tourism stakeholders from SAARC member countries have highlighted four major issues for promoting and branding common cultural heritage and fostering mutual understanding among SAARC countries for regional tourism promotion.

Environment, policies, infrastructures as well as utilization of natural and cultural resources are the major topics highlighted by tourism stakeholders from SAARC countries during a session on ‘Tourism Promoting and Branding: Our Common Cultural Heritage And Fostering Mutual Understanding’ at the ongoing 6th SAARC Business Leaders’ Conclave on Saturday.

Speaking at the session, SAARC CCI VP Mohammad Yonass Mohmand, who hails from Afghanistan, said that despite having social and cultural resources to enhance tourism sector, potential of tourism in SAARC region has remained largely unrealized due to several reasons. “We need to focus on promoting intra-regional tourism by utilizing common resources, sharing culture and physical infrastructures,” Mohammad said. He pointed out inadequate infrastructure, complicated travel procedures along with security concerns as the major impediments to tourism cooperation in the region.

Likewise, Deepak Raj Joshi, CEO of Nepal Tourism Board, said that SAARC region has some of the iconic tourism destinations of the world, offering several adventure activities, spiritual activities and varieties of cultural experiences. “We need to redefine our international promotion strategies, rising from the existing local promotion,” Joshi added.

Also speaking at the session, AumChimmyPem, director of Tourism Council from Bhutan, said major problem of tourism industry in SAARC region is the political leaders who only provide lip service. “Whenever they gather, they make commitment to promote and upgrade tourism industry. However, once they return to their respective countries, they forget to follow up on their commitment,” she said, urging all stakeholders to work with one motto of sharing and exchanging values of tourism experiences.

Likewise, MinhaFaiz, president of Women in Management from the Maldives, said that people from South Asia should  visit destinations in the region first before choosing other European or American destinations for their holiday. ” In order to promote tourism industry of the region, people must visit SAARC countries before they think about other countries for holiday,” Faiz said. She further said that SAARC countries should explore the possibility of promoting each other in the international market. “We should effectively use digital media promotion of our destinations and services, she added.

Likewise, WouterSchalken , senior tourism specialist of the World Bank, stressed over promotion of transboundary travel among SAARC countries. “South Asia has a trend of larger hospitality that encourages the growth of tourism in this region. So SAARC countries need to work for cluster development and promotion of tourism circuits.”