Islamabad, Pakistan: Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan while addressing at SCO Summit in Bishkek highlighted the need for joint strategy to develop tourism in SCO member states. His vision supports a long-awaited desire of tourism stakeholders of Central Asia as well as of United Nation World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). Formation of SCO Tourism Board can be first step towards achieving targets for a joint tourism industry.
Pakistan and India are two adversaries within SCO member states, therefore thinking of a joint visa strategy between archrivals are just a dream but can be thought of course and formation of SCOTB may provide an opportunity for both the countries to realize benefits of peace through tourism.
Leaving Pakistan and India aside, other SCO countries can move ahead for a joint strategy to promote tourism in SCO member states and there is a possibility that Pakistan and India in future understand the benefits of a joint tourism strategy.
I believe that at first stage, Central Asian Republics those are members of SCO (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan) along with Russia and China can move ahead under the vision of Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan for a joint tourism strategy.
Central Asian states are one of the best possible tourism destinations of the world and they have played well in tourism arena during the last 2 decades after their independence from former Soviet Russia.
These countries have everything to offer including ecotourism, natural beauty, hospitable and friendly people, good services and infrastructure. The impediment for further tourism development in this region is absence of strong interaction among tourism authorities of all these countries and friendly visa regime.
International tourists face serious problems when they wish to cross the border from one Central Asian Republic to another central Asian state (for example from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan).
Tourism experts of the region believe that “One Visa Regime” can boost Central Asian tourism and multiply its tourism revenue. This is possible if there is strong connectivity among tourism ministries of all these countries. There is need of a Joint Tourism Strategy which is indicated by Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and then SCO can move ahead towards SCO Tourism Board (SCOTB) comprising of tourism authorities of all SCO member states. Such Board will also play a positive role for more friendly relations of all these countries in future.
Tourism is one of the most effective tools for revenue generation and establishing Peace that can be achieved and tourism should be considered not only a revenue provider but harmony and peace generator.
Dilemma of South Asian tourism market is Indo-Pakistan adverse relations and priorities of governments are contrary to needs and demands of tourism industry.
In South Asia, governments of Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan have different political and diplomatic conflicts and this is the lead reason that South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has failed to establish interaction and strong networking in the field of tourism because SAARC did not setup any tourism board to deal with this issue.
I believe that UNWTO Silk Road Plan can only be achieved SCO member states at government level as well as non-government actors and stakeholders level join hands for common goal of enhancing tourism base in the region.
Writer is student of Business Strategy in University of Central Punjab