BISHKEK (TCA) — Travel agencies, tourist companies, resorts and hotels of Kyrgyzstan and foreign countries presented their products and services at the Issyk-Kul International Tourism Exhibition 2017. On May 6-7, the Tourism Department under the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism of the Kyrgyz Republic together with the Kyrgyz Resorts Association held the event in Cholpon-Ata city at Lake Issyk-Kul.
The exhibition aimed to attract foreign tourists by establishing direct business ties between domestic health resorts and the tourism sector participants of various countries. Investors, entrepreneurs, tourism experts, and producers of products related to the tourism industry attended the event.
The National Sustainable Development Strategy of the Kyrgyz Republic tasked the Government to make the country one of the regional tourism centers in Central Asia, Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Cholpon Sultanbekova said. She told the exhibition participants about measures taken to attract foreign investment in tourism and to ensure the safety of tourists.
Investments in fixed assets in the tourism sector exceeded 15 billion soms in 2016. The influx of tourists increases every year, she said. About 4 million tourists visited Kyrgyzstan last year.
Tourism Department Director Azamat Jamankulov named three reasons for tourists to visit Kyrgyzstan.
First, Kyrgyzstan is a country of celestial mountains. Over 94% of its territory of Kyrgyzstan is occupied by mountains and tourism here is associated with mountains, rivers, and lakes.
Second, Kyrgyzstan is a country of the Great Silk Road, which has become a world tourist brand.
Third, Kyrgyzstan is a country of nomadic civilization. It was proved by the successful organization of the Second World Nomadic Games in September 2016. Numerous guests were convinced how deep and rich the Kyrgyz culture is.
The Tourism Department has started to promote these brands through social networks and its website.
According to Jamankulov, Lake Issyk-Kul has great potential to become a center of health tourism. The lake does not freeze in winter because it is located on a layer of warm springs. There are many such springs around the lake which could be used for many types of treatment, but it requires new facilities and health resorts.
Issyk-Kul can also become a center for sports tourism due to its unique climate. Business people can come here to work and have a rest at the same time, that is why Issyk-Kul can also become a center of business tourism, but necessary facilities and services are needed.
Behind the Kyrchyn Gorge, which is near Cholpon-Ata, there is a mountain where a ski base could be built, and several investors are considering this option, Jamankulov said. Grigorievsky Gorge near Cholpon-Ata is also a good place for the construction of a ski resort.
Ethno-cultural tourism will be the brand of Issyk-Kul’s southern shore, and residents of the villages support this initiative.
Promotion campaign needed
Late in April, the Al-Jazeera TV channel broadcasted the first issue of the series “Kyrgyzstan, a Land of Wonders”. In total, six programs will be devoted to Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said.
Filming was conducted during the Second World Nomad Games in September 2016. The video tells about the nature of Kyrgyzstan and shows its location on the map. The second part of the video was dedicated to the WNG.
If the country does not launch an active campaign to promote Kyrgyzstan as a tourism destination in the world market, Issyk-Kul in the future risks losing traditional visitors, Jamankulov said. Even in Russia, the young generation does not know about Issyk-Kul or Kyrgyzstan.
Meanwhile, most of the tourists come to Kyrgyzstan from Russia and Kazakhstan. A new marketing strategy is now being developed to improve Kyrgyzstan’s positions in this market. The strategy will also help attract tourists from China, India, and European countries.
Guests from distant countries will be attracted by using modern information technologies, and tourists from neighboring countries by convenient routes. The Kyrgyz Government is negotiating with Uzbekistan Airways about the opening of the Tashkent—Tamchy—Tashkent flight. Now the Tamchy Airport at Issyk-Kul receives flights from Almaty, Novosibirsk and Osh.
Kyrgyz authorities promised to improve services at Issyk-Kul. Along the road to the lake, they are going to build camping centers that will include not only good toilets, but also small parking, coffee shops and shops. This year, five camping centers will be built.
The Tourism Department head also told about the reasons for the unsuccessful tourist season of 2016.
Firstly, it is security. There were several criminal cases which had a very negative impact on the image of the resort area including the case when pseudo cops robbed Russian tourists. This information was widely discussed by social networks and the media.
Many negative reviews were about the discrepancy between prices and the quality of services at Issyk-Kul resorts. Tourists did not receive a full range of expected services, and they shared their opinion in social networks. As a result, the country’s tourism brand suffered.
After the scandal around the construction of Balykchy—Tamchy—Korumdu motor road (along the northern shore of Issyk-Kul) and the subsequent Government change, the repairs to the highway were suspended due to lack of financing, although it was planned to complete it in August 2016, before the Second World Nomad Games.
Off-road and dust caused nervousness of drivers and passengers, and became anti-advertising to domestic tourism last season.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications plans to complete road repairs on the section from Tamchy village to Cholpon-Ata until June 15. To complete the road to the Korumdu village, additional 5.3 billion soms are required. The Ministry says the Government will allocate 1 billion soms.