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Taliban Seeks to Attract Tourists to Afghanistan

Photo : AP

Despite the Taliban's pariah status due to strict restrictions on women, efforts to boost tourism in Afghanistan are underway. In Kabul, a group of about 30 men, including a model and a 17-year-old with no job experience, are enrolled in a Taliban-run institute to learn about tourism and hospitality. This initiative aims to showcase a different side of Afghanistan despite its economic struggles and poverty.

Despite challenges, foreign tourism in Afghanistan is increasing, with visitor numbers rising from 691 in 2021 to 7,000 last year. China constitutes a significant market due to its proximity, but accessing visas remains difficult and expensive. Many countries severed ties with Afghanistan after the Taliban's return to power, complicating travel arrangements.

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Efforts are underway to address obstacles to tourism development, including improving infrastructure and establishing direct flight routes to major tourist markets. Despite the hurdles, the Taliban leadership supports the ambition to develop Afghanistan into a tourism destination.

Students at the institute aspire to promote Afghanistan's history and scenic beauty. However, concerns persist regarding the treatment of women, with the Taliban imposing strict dress codes and travel requirements. The reopening of facilities like the Serena Hotel's spa for foreign women signals preparations for increased tourism.

Tour operators emphasize responsible tourism practices and support for women's rights organizations. However, the absence of women at the tourism institute underscores the challenges faced by Afghan women under Taliban rule, with previous female students unable to return to complete their studies.

While efforts to boost tourism offer hope for economic development, the plight of Afghan women remains a concern, highlighting the complexities of promoting tourism in a country grappling with political and social challenges.

April 30, 2024 2:19 p.m. 3679

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