(By CB Adhikari)
Kathmandu,24 Nov 2014: The SAARC region has been the vital tourism destination in the world due to incomparable natural diversity. The highest peak of the world, Mt. Everest, among other 12 of the 14 high peaks is in this region.
The combination of the land-locked geography and islands has added additional attraction to the SAARC nations. The natural beauty of land-locked countries Nepal and Bhutan and water-locked Maldives and Sri Lanka is the major attraction for the tourists. The world is attracted by the ranges of dazzling mountains, green hills and the breezy seashores that are found in SAARC countries. It has been the matter of attraction to the people of the world for making these their destinations for pleasure and adventure.
Besides these, the adventurous tourism, sports tourism and world renowned trekking routes are additional sources of tourism attraction in this region.
The eight Asian nations, which are full of natural heritages and are the origin of the orient civilization,Â Â has been the attraction to people from any part of the world. Cultural diversities, incomparable natural resources, cultural glories, mosque and temples of ancient art and has a archeological importance, shrines and holy sites are the matter of additional attraction in the SAARC.
The SAARC has so many features to attract world due to age long civilization, prosperous cultural diversity, exclusive culinary delights, vast geographical attractions, fascinating heritage sites and above all the warm hospitality of people belonging to these countries.
Numerous of natural heritages, artificial physical structures, infrastructure development, air, train and road networks become the other means to pull world’s attention to the SAARC countries.
From religious point of view the SAARC nations are the mixture of one of the four major religions Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. The origin of Hindu and Buddhist civilizations is the SAARC region while there are some countries with majority of Islam. The Christian followers also have a large population in this region. Thus, SAARC region has religious and social harmony.
SAARC region is a very important place for Hindu and Buddhist religions. Pashupatinath Temple, Lumbini Swayambhu, Bouddhanath, Manakamana, Janaki temple, Devghat of Nepal and Kashi, Gaya, Badri, Kedar, Ayodhya, Rameshwaram are popular among the Hindus as well as Buddhist and people following other religions.
Lumbini is famous for Lord Buddha was born here.Â Kashi, Gaya, Rameshwaram, Badrinath, Kedarnath are some popular religious tourism sites in Nepal and India.
Similarly, Buddhists in Sri Lanka give highest regard to the Temple of Tooth and visited by hundreds of pilgrimage every day. The shrine holds the tooth relic of Lord Buddha.
The dazzling high mountains, hills and forests, lakes, fountains, big plains are further means of attraction in the region. Nepal, Sri Lanka and India have forwarded a plan for the common package of constructing Buddhist, Hindu circuit to attract the tourists from the third countries.
Dhaka, Musigunj, Narayangunj of Bangladesh and Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Darjaling, Sikkim, Goa, Nainital of India and Ishlamabad, Lahore, Karanchi, Sindha of Pakistan are famous tourism sites due to their natural, historical and archeological importance.
Colombo, Anuradhapura, Candy Nuwara of Sri Lanka draw thousands of tourists daily. Thimpu, Gangtey Valley Tigerâ€™s Nest Monastery Punakha Dzong, and Zuri Dzong Hike among others are famous for tourism in Bhutan.
The valley of Gangtey is one of the most stunning valleys in the Himalayas, and many call it the Shangri La of Bhutan, just as how Bhutan is well known for being â€œone of the worldâ€™s happiest nations,â€ and â€œthe last Shangri La on Earth.â€ The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, which is an extremely rare experience in Bhutan as most of the valleys are tightly enclosed.
According to United Nations report around 1.09 billion people visited various countries in 2013 against 25 million in 1950. It is estimated that the world tourist would be 1.87 billion by 2030.
The world tourism has a contribution of nine percent in the world gross development production. The world tourism has made a transaction of 11.6 trillion US Dollar. Around 563 million tourists reached in Europe in 2013 while it was 248 million in Asia and Pacific regions.
Similarly, 167 million tourists visited USA, 55 million in 2013 visited Africa and 51 million in the middle east and 15 million tourists visited south Asia in 2013. It is reported that tourists arrival in Asia get increased by five percent every year.
Nepal Tourism Board Report-2013 stated that around 800,000 tourists visit various tourism destinations last year. Of them, 180,000 were Indian tourists. Mainly Indian people visit Nepal for religious purposes.
The report stated that the number of tourists coming to SAARC from third countries was increasing of late. In 2013 alone, around 80 million tourists visited India, 1.2 in Sri Lanka and the lowest 100,000 tourists visited Maldives, the country of Islands.
The second SAARC Summit held in Banglore of India in 1986 mentioned the importance of promoting tourism in the SAARC region and stressed on the need of establishing public relation.
Later in the 11th SAARC Summit, it was further explained and stressed the infrastructure development, air service extension, simplification of the administrative system, training, and joint campaign for tourism. It was further highlighted in the 12th SAARC Summit to make the dream a success.
The tourism development in the SAARC region could not be accelerated when the commitment and decisions made in different summits were not brought to effective implementation. Lack of direct air services among all SAARC countries, enough development of road network, among other reasons have been the obstacles to increase tourism activities in within the SAARC region.
The 18th SAARC summit is going to be held in Kathmandu on November 26 and 27 is expected to be important in tourism promotion of Nepal and whole SAARC region.
Nepal should change the opportunity to action by exhibiting the local products, demonstration of Nepali arts and cultural things that carry the cultural and archeological importance. Other member countries also need to promote their art and culture for the prosperity of the SAARC region.