Bamiyan Has Lost Its Significance as a Tourist Destination

It has been more than a month since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. Many dramatic changes have taken place in Afghanistan since the fall of the national government.

Bamiyan, in the center of the country, is one of the provinces that in addition to having historical and ancient sites, has many pure natural attractions. These attractions have always been very effective in attracting domestic and foreign tourists. In the last two years, with the outbreak of Covid-19 and the escalation of the war in the country, although the tourism industry faced problems, it never stopped.

In late May, the former Bamiyan Information and Culture Bureau provided information to the Daily 8 Subh. According to the bureau’s reports, many tourists had flocked to Bamiyan after Eid al-Fitr, and that their number was astonishing compared to last year. In the first quarter of 1400 AH (March 21 to June 21), only 200 foreign tourists visited Bamiyan. The exact number of domestic tourists at that time was not clear. According to former information and culture officials, the number was growing day by the day.

After the fall of Bamiyan, the tourism industry, like other industries in the province, faced bankruptcy. Hotels, restaurants, guest house, transportation, exhibition, women’s handicraft market, and other tourism-related businesses were closed since August 15. The income of the people of Bamiyan depends on the tourism industry. The recession in the industry has now caused many problems for the people.

The manager of a private hotel in Bamiyan told the Daily 8 Subh that he was making good money from hotel management before the recent developments. Now, a month after the fall of the government, the situation in Bamiyan has not returned to normal and many hotels are closed.

He has been reactivating his hotel for about two weeks. He says he has almost no customer sometimes. If his hotel has guests, it is the residents of some tropical provinces of the country who come to Bamiyan and Band-e-Amir for fun. According to him, although many hotels are closed, the number of customers has decreased compared to the past. According to the hotel manager, when government offices were operating, many programs, workshops, and awareness conferences were held in the hotels. Therefore, he was making a good income, but now, everything has changed. According to the hotel manager, many people are still scared of their security. It used to be common in Bamiyan to go out at night, but now, due to fear, no one walks around easily at night.

“In addition to the tourism industry, many small businesses, including cafes and restaurants, have also been closed,” says Masoud Ekhtiari, a local journalist in Bamiyan.

Fear of Hunger

According to Ekhtiari, daily life inside Bamiyan has not yet returned to normal and many remain in shock. In recent years, there have been many cafes and restaurants in Bamiyan, all of which have closed since August 15. Some of these businesses were running on loan money, but now they can no longer operate. In recent years, many small and large investments have been made in Bamiyan in various sectors related to the tourism industry. From the construction of four-star hotels to cafes, and regular inns.

Maulavi Siddiq Ullah Shahin, the Taliban’s police chief for Bamiyan province, however, believes that the lack of tourists is not due to security issues, but due to the province’s cold climate. According to Shahin, the security situation is completely normal and there are no security issues. The Taliban police chief also said that although the weather in Bamiyan has cooled, citizens are visiting Bamiyan, especially the Band-e-Amir National Park. According to Shahin, a number of high-ranking Taliban officials also visited Band-e-Amir last Thursday. The Taliban military official emphasized that many guests have visited Band-e-Amir in recent weeks, and that this trend continues.

However, Sikandar Balaghi, an influential figure in Bamiyan province who lives in the Band-i-Amir area, says recent developments have severely damaged Bamiyan’s tourism industry. Band-i-Amir no longer has the excitement of the past. “Corridors, canopies, and boats are no longer working,” he says. According to Balaghi, all hotels and guesthouses in Band-i-Amir National Park have been closed down and many of the owners of hotels have left Bamiyan.

In recent days, residents of Nangarhar, Kandahar, Helmand, and some tropical provinces are visiting Band-i-Amir for fun. However, those who worked in the tourism services sector have suffered a severe economic recession, and if this issue is not addressed, people will face severe poverty in the not-too-distant future.

The income of a large portion of Bamiyan residents, especially the residents of Band-i-Amir National Park, depended on tourist services, hotel management, and peddling. Recent developments have destroyed their businesses. Balaghi calls on national and international aid organizations to act now to prevent a major humanitarian catastrophe in the future.

This influential Bamiyani says that in order for the situation to return to normal and for jobs and development projects to resume, the necessary food and non-food aid must be delivered to the people before the winter. He emphasizes that if aid is not provided sooner in cold regions such as Bamiyan, the cold season and snowfall will come and then it will be too late

Bamiyan is an ancient city in the center of Afghanistan. The city has many tourist destinations, including Amir Lake, Shah Fooladi Basins, Azhdar valleys, Ahangaran, Gazak, Sumara, Hajar, Fooladi, Dukani, Babur Dara, Bandkudra, Darra-e Kalan and also Arous Mountain. The province also has ancient sites, such as Buddha statues, Shahr-e Gholghola, Zahak, Chehlbourj and Gohargin.