Turkmenistan’s tourism woes

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ASHGABAT (TCA) — Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has expressed his discontent with the performance of the country’s State Tourism Committee, Chronicles of Turkmenistan independent website reports.

At the Cabinet meeting last Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Garadjaev, responsible for culture and who also oversees tourism, reported on the tourism industry’s results, the state information agency TDH reported.

He stated that “Year-to-date revenue from the financial and business operations of the tourism committee had amounted to over 4.8 million manats [approximately $1.37 million using the government established exchange rate or $685,000 at the black market rate] and services had been rendered to about 17,000 tourists”.

Based on this data, Chronicles of Turkmenistan concludes that from each tourist who “has been serviced” Turkmenistan receives on average $80 using the government established exchange rate, or $40 using the black market rate. The fee for obtaining the cheapest tourist visa equals $35.

It appears that the tourists who “have been serviced” include those who have just applied for Turkmen tourist visas.

Chronicles of Turkmenistan earlier reported that a total of 913 tourist visas were issued by Turkmenistan’s consular offices during 2015.

“All over the world tourism is one of the most profitable industries,” President Berdymukhammedov was quoted as saying at the Cabinet meeting.

At the same time, the President announced: “Despite available recreational resources, numerous objects of culture and art capable of attracting tourists, the work carried out in this direction is of quite a low standard in our country.”

The head of state ordered Deputy Prime Minister Garadjaev to address this issue and make proposals for improving the situation and correcting shortcomings.

It is extremely complicated to obtain a tourist visa to enter Turkmenistan. The application process can take up to 3 months and visas are denied to the majority of those wishing to visit the country.

Even after obtaining a visa, the travel itinerary within the country needs to be agreed upon beforehand. Upon exiting the capital, Ashgabat, a tourist must be accompanied by a local guide.

Sergey Kwan

TCA