Kazakhstan: visa-free and open-sky regimes needed for tourism development

ASTANA (TCA) — Kazakhstan’s tourism industry is facing ambitious tasks — to increase the share of tourism from the current 1% to 8% of GDP by 2025 and to raise the employment from 390 thousand people in 2017 up to 660 thousand by 2025, Chairperson of the Tourism Industry Committee of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Kazakhstan, Mainyura Murzamadiyeva, said in an interview with PrimeMinister.kz.

“2017 was a turning point for the development of Kazakhstan’s tourism. At the beginning of the year, following the instruction of the Head of State, the Tourism Industry Committee was formed, which was integrated into the Ministry of Culture and Sports. A renewed, updated concept was prepared for the development of the tourism industry until 2023 and already in June of last year, this concept was approved by the Government decree. In July, the Kazakh Tourism national company was established,” Murzamadiyeva said.

She said that two things needs to be solved for successful development of tourism in Kazakhstan — Visa Free regime and Open Sky policy.

“In the direction of the Visa Free regime, a lot has been done in our country. We have a visa-free regime for citizens of 63 countries, but since we defined the target market in our concept, priority zones are the countries that are within a 4-5 hour flight radius from Kazakhstan, these are: Russia, China, India, Iran, the countries of the Persian Gulf. We are currently trying to create conditions for tourists from these countries. Within the framework of the pilot project during the Expo-2017, a 72-hour visa-free transit for tourists from China was launched. According to preliminary calculations, for about three months [of the Expo], about 4.5 thousand people visited and each of them left $200-$300 in the economy and about $1.5 million as a whole. At the moment, we are trying to prolong this regime for China, and launch the same visa-free transit for tourists from India.”

“Open Sky is the mode which was operating here during the Expo. The concept is simple — this is when every international air carrier has the right to fly to the capital (Astana), almost seven days a week, but only on one condition that it will not be subsidized by the state. During the Expo in Astana, a lot of airlines were added to our air lines: from Finland, Poland, Hungary, and at the moment they also operate their flights and there are no restrictions on flights in the capital,” Murzamadiyeva said.

Asked about the promotion of the national tourism product and measures to increase the country’s attractiveness for inbound tourism and investors, Murzamadiyeva said that Kazakhstan plans to form a tourist product in two directions: ecotourism and ethnotourism, and “for this we have all the conditions. We have a unique nature: magnificent mountains in the south for the development of ski tourism, wonderful lakes such as the Caspian Riviera, Kapchagai, Alakol, Markakol for the development of beach tourism, and of course we have beautiful national parks.”

Murzamadiyeva said that the development of ethno- and eco-tourism will contribute to the development of event and entertaining tourism, and that the development of these kinds of tourism has a social dimension, because young people will not move to cities, they will be interested to stay in villages where the production of handicrafts and souvenirs will grow, guest houses will be developed, and it will be interesting for young people to find a stable work.

Sergey Kwan