A PLACE TO SEE

Kazakhstan 2014 | TOURISM & RETAIL | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Rashida Shaikenova, Director of the Kazakhstan Tourist Association (KTA), on working with the government, boosting tourism, and attracting foreign investors.

Rashida Shaikenova
BIOGRAPHY
Rashida Shaikenova has had an extensive career in numerous sectors. She began as the Director of the No. 26 Secondary school in Bishkek in 1989. She later became a Correspondent for the Morning of Bishkek, before taking the role of Deputy Chief Editor of Turne magazine. After this, she moved into the tourism sector and accepted the role of Executive Director of the Kazakhstan Tourist Association (KTA) from 2001 until 2008, when she then became the Director of the same organization.

How closely does Kazakhstan Tourist Association (KTA) work with the government?

Tourism is more than just a business. The participation of the government is essential. Of course, we work closely with the government. We are members of all the working groups that address questions related to tourism, and every committee connected to the tourism industry, as part of the Ministry of Industry and New Technology and with the Ministry of Education. We monitor developments in this sector closely in order to determine which are the most relevant trends in the labor market and which problems are the most urgent. Right now, one of the major issues for our members is personnel. We are working with the Ministry of Transport and Communications on this, because one of the most important elements of the sector is transport and logistics. We also work with regional councils as Kazakhstan is an enormous country, and if each region does not have its own local cluster for developing touristic resources and services, it is very difficult to imagine how our committees can operate. We occasionally disagree with the government, and sometimes we find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue, but we more frequently feel deeply satisfied with the partnership.

What opportunities are there for foreign investors in the tourism sector in Kazakhstan?

There are many plans in the works right now, both for construction and in the opening of hotels, such as the Rixos and Radisson. Entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan are inviting major foreign chains to come here. It indicates that the hotel market here is attractive to investors. The second area of interest to investors is also related to hotels, and there are possibilities for various types of complexes. There is a serious discussion underway about developing tourist clusters of a certain level, and developing facilities in places like Borovoye. There are many plans to construct similar resorts in Almaty Province, and others on the Caspian Sea. Yet, another major opportunity for investors would be in training establishments, because today, unfortunately, we cannot say that we have the resources to develop a professional cadre.

What trends have you noticed in the tourism sector?

Since 2010, we have noticed an increase in the number of citizens travelling within Kazakhstan. These are not vacations, either, they are tours taken on days off. The people of Kazakhstan are beginning to take more of an interest in their own health and in recreation. On their days off, they go to relax someplace outside their city's borders. This sector of internal tourism has been developing well. The numbers for international tourism are not bad either, with over 5 million visitors. The bad news is that of the 5 million, few of these are actual tourists; the majority are business travellers. According to information collected by tourism organizations, business visitors who come to the country for meetings or work purposes are also counted as tourists.

How can the government assist the private sector in developing the tourism industry?

We don't have to reinvent the wheel—there are other countries that have a great deal of experience in successfully developing the sector, and it occupies a respectable place in the country. It is clear that we can't do anything without the government. We need the government in two ways: first, to assist businesses by developing the country's infrastructure, such as the road system, installation of electric and water systems, and communications infrastructure. Establishing a foundation for the market is a priority for a developing tourism sector. Currently, there are not many incentives available for businesses in Kazakhstan; we have to buy everything ourselves. We would like to see more preferences for the purchase of land for building infrastructure, for tax corridors, debt funds, and discounted rates—this is what we expect in the way of assistance from the government.