This is according to the United Nations tourism agency.
“Travel is the language of peace. Peace is the basis of tourism and tourism also helps build peace,” said World Tourism Organisation deputy secretary-general Dawid de Villiers at the annual meeting of the agency’s ‘Commission for South Asia’ and a subsequent international conference on sustainable tourism in Lahore, Pakistan.
For the first time in the recent history of WTO meetings, an Afghan delegation attended the three-day gathering.
In 2004, international arrivals reached around 8-million with an annual growth rate of as high as 20%. The region achieved an impressive yearly average of 6,5% in tourist arrivals between 1990 and 2004, though still lower than the 8,5% rate of growth of northeast Asia.
Delegates felt that the region is now in a stage of general economic health, with India moving forward in terms of government support for tourism, infrastructure improvements and successful marketing and promotion initiatives, and Iran making dramatic advances with visa facilitation and a sharp increase in international visits.
Delegates also spoke highly of the success stories of the Maldives and Sri Lanka in spite of the difficulties the two countries faced in the aftermath of December’s tsunami disaster.