The beauty and benefits of the far away lands had always attracted man and the travel adventures of Vasco de gama and Columbus bear testimony to this fact. While the adventures of Robinson Crusoe and Sindbad, the sailor can be attributed to imaginations of their respective creatorsthe travel adventures of the modern man are real. Travel and tourism have so much increased in recent times that tourism industry has come to be regarded as an economic power house and job creator, as the Prime minister of Pakisthan Mr. Shukat Aziz pointed out during the UNWTO Asia Pacific meetings.
While travel had been a usual thing in the West for long, travel in Asian countries has been a relatively new phenomenon. International tourist arrivals to Asia and Pacific grew at an average rate of 7.1% annually since 1990.
According to WTO figures, there was a 7.6% growth in the year 2006 while the global growth rate reached 4.5%. The governments in the Asian region are giving much importance to the growth oftourism.
Countries all over the world have realized what tourism growth does to their countries and hence are trying to sell themselves. More and more tourist resorts are created and special tourist attractions like special cruises etc are created. Another major factor contributing to the development oftourism has been the expansion of low cost carrier services with a significant improvement in direct air lines to important markets like Europe, Middle East, Singapur.
According to Taleb Rifai, the Deputy Secretary General of UNWTO, “Tourism in Asia and the Pacific Region has become the motor propelling global tourism and is thus gradually changing the world tourism scenario”. While travel and tourism lend a helping hand in the economic development of some countries, it is the main source of succor for some economies like that of Maldives. Looking from that point of view, tourism thus is an effective tool of economic development and social progress not to speak of the difference it makes to the foreign exchange balances.
Unlike the earlier day travelers, today travelers are a more informed lot. They have prior information of their destinations; they make complete plans and then embark upon the journey. On 26th December 2004 when the Tsunami hit many countries in the Asian region, many of the travelers were caught unawares and they suffered extensive loss in terms of life and property. Yet it had the least impact onthe travel plans of travelers from Canada, France, Germany and Australia. In some countries like China, U.K and Sweden people wanted to visit the affected areas as they believed that taking a holiday in the affected countries is an excellent way to help communities and economies recover from the disaster.
Most of the barriers in the travel industry are based on inadequate information about infrastructure and safety in the destination countries. It is for the countries to not only develop their infrastructure and safety levels but also communicate the same world over. Another major hurdle in the development of tourism is the rising terrorism world over and particularly in some countries like India and Pakistan. Earlier, Kashmir was the most preferred tourist destination and tourists from all over the world used to visit the place. Unfortunately, due to cross-border terrorism in the recent past,tourism in the state has touched its lowest ebb. In fact, in order to avoid negative impact on tourism growth, the minister for tourism of Pakistan called on the international community to help Pakistan in its efforts against negative publicity.
National tourism organizations, policy makers, tour operators of all countries, more particularly the Tsunami affected and Terrorist affected countries should be able to attend to the most important issues and concerns of the travelers world over and try to push up travel to their countries.Tourism as an industry has a bright future ahead given the rising affluence among the middle classes due to rise in earning power.