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Uzbekistan Widens its Doors to Foreign Tourists

In an announcement on the media portal Novosti Uzbekistana, Nurbek Yakubov, a senior expert at the Institute of Macroeconomic and Regional Studies of Uzbekistan, revealed plans to boost the country’s tourist industry. Boasting a unique and exotic cultural heritage, as well as stunning natural landscapes rich in archaeological sites and monuments, Uzbekistan’s inflow of foreign tourists has increased almost 2.5-fold, to 6.6 million over the past six years. As a result, tourism has become one of the key sources of stable economic growth in the country. In 2017, revenue from related services amounted to $531 million, and in 2023, quadrupled to $2.143 billion. The industry now aims to further increase its volume of foreign tourists to 15 million, in addition to increasing that of local tourists to 25 million, and pilgrims to 3 million by 2030. According to Yakubov, Uzbekistan is on course to double the availability of hotel beds, increase the number of tourist mahallas (local communities equipped to receive tourists) to 175, and has set a goal to increase the annual export of tourism services to $5 billion through attracting private investment. Citizens from 91 countries can currently visit Uzbekistan without a visa.

OCA Magazine Celebrates Fifteenth Anniversary

The sole English-language magazine dedicated to Central Asia and the CIS region, since 2009 OCA Magazine has been promoting diplomatic relationships and international partnerships between Eurasia and the global community. With a list of contributors which includes heads of state, ambassadors, ministers, celebrities, academicians, business-people, and others, in 2024 the magazine will celebrate its fifteenth anniversary with both new and special editions, as well as international events bringing together readers, contributors, and partners of the publication. A special issue, OCA: Creative Industries & Tourism Expertise, has already been published as part of the celebrations, which includes articles about the best tourist experiences, modern projects, and key challenges in the creative economies of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and more. Written by experts from the U.K., Spain, Russia, and others, the first edition was presented during the OCA Zoom International Conference on “Sustainable Development of the Creative Economy: A New Model for Tourism in Central Asia." This conference brought together experts to discuss current issues and trends in tourism development resulting from the volatile global situation. During the session, new opportunities for Eurasian tourism were explored, with Gulchekhra-begim Makhmudova proposing the creation of an edutainment park called SILKROADLAND, and suggesting that video content based on her children's books about the legends of the Great Silk Road should be produced. Makhmudova noted that while many are familiar with Western cartoon characters, there is a great opportunity to showcase the unique and diverse culture of Central Asia through animation. Gregory Schafer discussed sustainable cultural tourism and its management, highlighting the significance of preserving cultural authenticity, promoting eco-friendly practices, and exploring gastro-tourism. Irina Kharitonova, meanwhile, addressed the topic of developing the creative economy and related industries, noting that some may not be familiar with terms such as "creative tourism," and the need to promote better understanding. Artem Klykov, a professor at Silk Road University and SWISS University, highlighted the significance of human capital as the basis for sustainable tourism and the creative economy. "Increasing the competitiveness of tourism requires effective management of human capital," Klykov stated. Despite the business-oriented nature of the conference, there was still an opportunity for celebration. Marat Akhmedjanov, the founder of Silk Road Media (U.K.) and publisher of OCA Magazine, congratulated everyone on the fifteenth anniversary and expressed his gratitude to all of the participants. Later this year, the magazine will see several more special issues and related conferences, such as the 4th OCA Magazine: Education (an opportunity for universities, experts and media representatives to promote education and research opportunities inside the region and abroad), the 5th OCA Magazine: People (featuring 40 interviews with outstanding creative people from  Eurasia), the 4th OCA Magazine: North America Edition (a special edition observing the wide range of issues related to Central Asia, the CIS, the U.S. and Canada), and the 1st OCA Magazine: Real Estate (a new opportunity for international investors). The year's activities will culminate with the OCA Dialogue Forum, “New Dimensions of International Investment Attractiveness of Eurasia. Global ReFace,” which is scheduled...

Qazaq Culture Portal Launched in Kazakhstan

In an enlightened new initiative to attract international attention to the country’s rich cultural and historical heritage, the Ministry of Culture and Information of Kazakhstan has supported the creation of an information and educational portal on Qazaq Culture. Available in the six official languages of the United Nations, as well as Kazakh and Turkish, the portal offers a unique and comprehensive insight into Kazakhstan’s many diverse regions. Visitors to the site will be afforded a virtual exploration of the country’s landmarks and attractions in the section, ‘Culture of Kazakhstan Through the Prism of Artificial Intelligence’, and delve deeper into its heritage by accessing source material and publications held in the Archive Fund of Kazakhstan. In addition to a cultural news blog covering a vibrant array of festivals, contests, film and theatre premieres, books, and art exhibitions, the website will feature a single ticket system for all the cultural facilities in Kazakhstan.  

Sell-Out of U.K. Tours to World Nomad Games in Kazakhstan

Due to an unprecedented demand, U.K. package tours, organized by Regent Holidays and Wild Frontiers, to attend the Fifth World Nomad Games in Astana from 8-14 September 2024, have already sold out. The news, reported by Kazakh Tourism, is perhaps not surprising given that the magazine 'Wanderlust', listed Kazakhstan as one of its top 24 destinations in 2024 on account of the country's hosting the event. With reference to Kazakhstan being the only Central Asian country to make the list, Kairat Sadvakasov, chairman of the board of Kazakh Tourism, commented, "Year after year, Kazakhstan is becoming a center of attraction for foreign tourists. That's because we are a relatively new destination, particularly for American [and] European readers of Wanderlust. To appear on the publication's list shows great progress in the development of our tourist industry. It's also important for us to let everyone know about the World Nomad Games in our capital city. We hope that (it) we will open up a new perspective on Kazakhstan and especially, Astana." The World Nomad Games are international competitions in indigenous ethnic sports historically played by nomadic peoples. Aimed to support the development of ethno-sports and ethno-cultural development, the Games are included in UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage. Comprising 20 sports, this year's event will involve some 3,000 competitors from more than 100 countries. Costing $17.9 million to present, the Games are expected to attract 20,000 foreign spectators.

Tourism Doubles in Kazakhstan

In 2023, Kazakhstan hosted more than 9 million foreign tourists, double that of the previous year. According to the Bureau of National Statistics, guests mainly hailed from from Germany, Great Britain, China and South Korea and the key factors cited for the growth were a post-pandemic rebound in global tourism coupled with Kazakhstan's cancellation of tourist fees. However, experts have warned that for the industry to continue to develop and thrive, Kazakh authorities must strive to improve both the infrastructure and promotion of tourism. As illustrated by statistical data, over the course of 2023, hotels and hostels in Kazakhstan accommodated some 8 million people. Of the million visitors from abroad, half came to Kazakhstan for business, and half for leisure. Among them, the majority were citizens of Russia, India, the U.S., Germany, South Korea and the UK. The country received over 16,000 visitors from the UAE, and from Italy, almost 15,000. Notably, the introduction in November 2023, of a visa-free regime with China resulted in a two-fold increase in Chinese tourists.   In a related report, Tatiana Vernitskaya, executive director of the Centre for Urban Tourism Development, stated, "The geopolitical situation around Kazakhstan is shaping up in favour of our tourism. There are now a lot of [migrants] from other countries in Kazakhstan, businesses have moved, - and European tourism has changed direction. Such changes are highly positive for Kazakhstan." She continued by saying, "There are states that (survive) on tourism. We have a huge potential (for expansion). Subsidies have only been available since 2022 (but access must be facilitated) to make them work. We (also) need advertisements at trade shows (complemented) by point-to-point workshops." Records show that the most popular destinations for foreign visitors were the country's two major cities. Last year Almaty hosted more than 2 million people, and Astana, 1.3 million, providing owners of hotels, hostels and guest houses with revenue of almost $515.5 million. By way of comparison, the number of tourists visiting Kazakhstan throughout 2023, is equal to that hosted by Thailand in the first 3 months of 2024, where local businesses earned almost $12.5 billion, equivalent to roughly one percent of Thailand's annual gross domestic product.

Year of Kazakhstan Tourism in China

The Year of Kazakhstan Tourism in China was officially launched in Beijing on 28-29 March. The occasion was marked by several events including a Kazakh-Chinese forum on the development of tourism and investment, an exhibition representing Kazakhstan’s various regions, cultural activities staged in an ethno-village, and a gala concert. In his welcoming speech at the Kazakh-Chinese tourism and investment forum, Ermek Marzhikpayev, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Kazakhstan, said: “The Year of Tourism of Kazakhstan in the People's Republic of China is a landmark event that helps strengthen friendly relations between the two countries. We believe that our dialogue will give new breath and new horizons for partnership in the field of tourism, creating the basis for fruitful and long-term cooperation.” He added that Kazakhstan’s rich nomadic culture, centuries-old history, and unique natural landscape has much to offer to travellers with wide-ranging interests. Kairat Sadvakasov, chairman of Kazakh Tourism national company, likewise celebrated the launch saying, “We are convinced that Kazakhstan is one of the most attractive destinations for Chinese tourists, being not just a friendly and neighboring country with a visa-free regime, but also a strategic partner of the 'Belt and Road' Initiative. We offer tourists engagement with the concept of ‘Eco-Ethnic-Entertainment-Events’ including: ecotourism, ethno-tourism, and cultural entertainment.” China was second only to Russia in the list of countries whose citizens visited Kazakhstan in 2023. According to official statistics, over the first nine months of last year, more than 75,000 Chinese tourists stayed in Kazakh hotels, and a total of over 200,000 visitors from China visited Kazakhstan.

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