Tourism has played an important role in the economic growthApril 24, 2021 - 5:00 pm سپهر علیمحمدی
Mr Jandos Asanov
ECO Deputy Secretry General
Tourism has played an important role in the economic growth of many countries for many years. Over the past half century tourism has experienced continued expansion and diversification throughout the world. In this period it has become one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors. An ever-increasing number of destinations worldwide have opened up to tourism and investments grew in this sector, turning it into a key driver of socio-economic progress through creation of jobs and enterprises, export revenues and infrastructure development. The share of the tourism sector in the world economy is more than 10 percent with the contribution of 8.8 trillion dollars. According to the figures of the WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council), it covered 319 million jobs around the world in 2018 and more importantly one fifth of all new jobs created by tourism sector. With its huge potential, tourism can be a powerful tool for regional development, as it stimulates new economic activities and has a positive economic impact on employment and community development in reducing inequalities.
The Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) is an inter-governmental regional organization encompassing countries from Europe, Caucuses and Central Asia, Middle East and South Asia with more than 480 million inhabitants and over 8 million square kilometers connecting Russia to the Persian Gulf and China to Europe. The overall objective of the Organization is the sustainable economic development of its Member States and the Region as a whole. The ECO region is well-known for its natural beauty as well as diversity of its historical-cultural heritage, echoing the memoires of the ancient Silk Road could be one of the most important tourist destinations in the world. The historical and cultural commonalities provide the ECO area with tremendous potentials for tourism cooperation as an everlasting and sustainable asset for economic development.
Health/ Medical Tourism is a unique area in which the member states have vast potentials and can further develop the intra-ECO interactions by utilizing the potential of this field. One of the significant issues is the economic aspects of health tourism including its huge potential in job creation and sustainable development and the policies of the ECO Member States for promotion of this sector in the region. ECO countries have the extensive infrastructure and skilled human resource in the health and medical sector as the reliable assets to promote the region as the health tourism magnet in the world. During the 3rd ECO Ministerial Meeting on Tourism, preceded by the 5th High Level Expert Group (HLEG) Meeting on Tourism was held on 3-4 October 2019 in Khujand city of Republic of Tajikistan, Member States were encouraged for promotion of natural tourism, health tourism, gastronomy tourism as well as restoration and preservation of historical and cultural heritages.
The role of the private sector in tourism industry is another important issue and member-states should encourage this sector to engage more deeply in the development of health tourism and investment in relevant services.
In 2020 global tourism sector faced one of the most acute crisis suffering sizeable losses and setbacks when travel and mobility almost came to a cessation due to COVID-19. According to UNWTO, global tourism suffered its worst year on record in 2020, with international tourist arrivals declining by 74% in 2020 compared to 2019. ECO region was not an exception and COVID-19 has hit the region hard and exposed challenges in several areas including tourism sector. However, ECO Member States take this time as an opportunity to focus on the policy and strategy related mandates of the ECO Vision 2025. The strategic objective of the ECO Vision 2025 is to establish a peaceful and green tourism destination with diverse products and high quality services in the region.
One of the expected outcomes of the ECO activities in the tourism sector achieving of tangible results in the following areas: health, nature, culture, winter, sea, mountain sports, climbing, skiing, desert and religious and other types of tourism.
Despite the enormous negative effects of COVID-19 pandemic ECO member-states are resolved to pursue ambitious goals in tourism for the benefit of the peoples of the ECO area.
The 5th International Congress of Health of Islamic Countries, one of the region’s most important events in the field of health tourism, plays a crucial role in expanding the international network. Hopefully, the fifth edition will be held ever more impressive.