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Ski Afghanistan: A Backcountry Guide to Bamyan & Band-e-Amir

16 March 2012

The Bamyan Ecotourism Programme, supported by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Information and Culture, the Bamyan provincial government, the Aga Khan Development Network and New Zealand’s Aid Programme, is therefore developing sustainable tourism in Bamyan to help preserve and develop the history and culture of the region, to provide employment and to give local people the ability to improve their living standards. Ski Afghanistan is published as part of the Bamyan Ecotourism Programme. 

From the Preface to Ski Afghanistan:

“The global tourism industry has grown dramatically since Afghanistan was plunged into conflict three decades ago. Today, tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the world and is an established component of the development agenda for many of the world’s poorest countries. When planned and managed well, tourism can promote sustainable local livelihoods, improve local governance, enhance natural resource management and support other important development goals. When unplanned and unmanaged it can have the opposite effect.

“Bamyan is preparing once again to welcome visitors from around the world to explore the province’s historic sites, experience its welcoming culture, take pleasure in its natural beauty, and, for the first time, to ski in its snowy mountains. With so many challenges and so much uncertainty about the future of the country however, some may question whether it is appropriate to encourage the revival of tourism at the present time.

“One of the many lessons learned through the expansion of the tourism industry is that places of former conflict can rapidly become popular tourist destinations. Cambodia, for example, experienced a dramatic increase in tourism in the decade following the 1991 comprehensive peace settlement. More than two million people a year now visit Angkor Watt alone. Within thirteen years of the genocide in Rwanda, tourism became that country’s highest foreign currency earner. Tourism has not only created jobs in Rwanda, it has also served as a means for formerly warring groups to work together constructively and build a peaceful future. In Nepal, as peace and stability has ebbed and flowed over the past decade, tourism has consistently been one of the fastest industries to recover, fueling economic growth and providing jobs.

“Tourism is contributing significantly to development in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and other former Yugoslav republics. Tourism has also been a central component of South Africa’s post-apartheid development. Less than twenty years after Nelson Mandela was released from prison the country hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors attending the football World Cup.

“Each of these places, and many other post-conflict countries, face great challenges to ensure a socially equitable distribution of the peace dividend, to (re) create national and local identities, heal old and often all-too-recent wounds and to protect their natural and cultural heritage. What is also true in each case is that planning for tourism’s role in helping to overcome these challenges could not have happened too soon. Post-conflict recovery often hinges on planning and initiating recovery efforts before the end of the conflict. People must plan for peace...”