TBY talks to Talgat Ermegiyaev, Minister of Tourism and Sports, on development strategies for the Kazakhstani tourism sector.
TBY Kazakhstan still remains relatively unknown to the international tourism industry. How are you looking to increase the country’s visibility as a tourism destination?
TALAT ERMEGIYAEV Since independence, Kazakhstan has successfully conducted domestic reforms that have allowed for relatively high and stable growth in the national economy. Today, Kazakhstan is faced with the challenge of making its tourism sector as profitable as its oil sector. In this regard, the government is actively working to develop tourism infrastructure in Kazakhstan, and work is being conducted in all regions of the country. In addition, a lot of work is being done to attract foreign tourists to Kazakhstan and increase the investment attractiveness of the country.
What figures did Kazakhstan experience over 2010 in terms of visitor numbers?
According to the Kazakhstan Statistics Agency, in 2010 the number of tourists was 4.7 million and increased by 8.8% compared with 2009. Over the year there was an increase in tourism from all areas, namely domestic, business, and personal. The number of outbound tourists also jumped to 7.4 million, compared to 6.4 million in 2009. Domestic tourist figures also jumped by 10% to 4.5 million, and the total value of services increased by 11% to reach KZT73.1 billion. The number of beds also increased to 76,053, up from 67,717 in 2009—a 12.3% increase. In 2010, investments in the tourism industry also grew by 58.3% compared with 2009 and amounted to KZT194.6 billion.
What steps is the government taking on easing visa procedures?
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will hold a meeting in the near future with the consuls of the Schengen area, during which issues will be discussed to simplify visa procedures for Kazakhstani citizens planning to visit Europe, and to simplify visa formalities for citizens of the Schengen zone traveling to Kazakhstan.
In the recent past Kazakhstan hosted various major international conferences, such as the OSCE Summit, with many more lined up for 2011. How have these conferences contributed to the profile of Kazakhstan as a Eurasian center of attraction for international MICE gatherings?
Holding conferences, forums, exhibitions, and other activities in Kazakhstan has a positive effect on the country’s image around the world. Similar events are held at high levels and with the participation of representatives of many countries, most of whom had not previously visited our country. Given the rich experience of the country in various activities, Kazakhstan has already formed a positive image and credibility in the eyes of world public opinion. In recent years, Kazakhstan has carried out such extensive and important events as the Summit of the OSCE, 18th General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization, the Fourth Astana Economic Forum, the Asian Winter Games, and others that were visited by large numbers of people, many of whom are interested in Kazakhstan as a partner for business or as a tourist destination.
How is your Ministry looking to actively protect and promote Kazakhstan’s natural and historic sites of beauty?
It is known that the tourist potential of Kazakhstan is rich, diverse, and has unique opportunities for the development of almost all types of domestic tourism, from cultural and historical visits to adventure and other active types of tourism. The country has more than 9,000 archaeological and historical sites. In addition, there are 118 protected areas in the country, including 11 national natural parks where camping is allowed, aimed at developing eco-tourism.
How is the Ministry planning to promote the use of some of the facilities built for the recent Asian Winter Games as tourism destinations?
The government aims to hold international competitions used by the Asian Games to promote the tourism sector in the country, and in 2011 we plan to hold the Speed Skating World Cup, as well as the Cycling World Cup at the Republican Cycle Track. Furthermore, in 2010 the mountainous skating rink Medeo in Almaty is scheduled to host the Bandy World Championships. These activities will positively promote the tourism industry and attract sports fans from around the world.
What is your outlook for the development of tourism in the new decade?
The tourism sector will continue to grow in line with development of the economy and its infrastructure. A tourism cluster will be created along the Western China-Western Europe transportation corridor, and tourist centers and complexes will be a main target for development. We will also build on current strengths and develop ski tourism infrastructure, as well as develop marketing strategies and human resources.
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