Coronavirus Shatters Tourism Hopes in Afghanistan’s Bamyan Province

Bamyan was on track to break its tourist record this year, according to The National.

The central Afghan province of rugged mountains, clear lakes, historical sites and untouched nature offers a different perspective on a country known for poverty and war.

In Bamyan, there are no Taliban fighters and no land mines anymore.

Last year, as domestic flights from Kabul resumed, about 400,000 tourists – including 500 from abroad – flocked to the peaceful and adventurous vacation spot. An even larger number was expected this year. But then came the coronavirus pandemic.

“Zero. That’s how many people will come this season. These realities are hard. Thousands of residents depend on tourism here, and there’s little alternative,” said Abdullah Mahmoodi, the owner of Highland Hotel, a quaint and cosy guest house catering mainly to international travellers.

The hotel, in a newly built part of Bamyan city, can accommodate 11 guests in its five rooms, which cost between $40 and $60 per night. But as the first cases of Covid-19 appeared in the province a month ago and worldwide travel restrictions kicked in, two tour operators cancelled dozens of bookings for foreign visitors at Mr Mahmoodi’s guest house.

Afghanistan’s confirmed coronavirus cases have passed 1,400, with just a handful in Bamyan, but with limited testing capacity in the country, the actual number of people infected is suspected to be much higher. With the capital put on lockdown, commercial flights to Bamyan were cancelled in mid April and roads in and out of the province closed; the last flight from Kabul – a 25-minute journey – brought only five passengers. None of them were tourists.

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