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Tourism development, expansion of online platforms and top 10 places for recreation in Kazakhstan — Kazakh Tourism

Thursday, 06 June 2019, 10:57:46

The development of domestic and inbound tourism is one of the priorities of state policy. Kazakhstan is actively working to shape the image and attractiveness of the local tourist environment. Chairman of the Board of the Kazakh Tourism National Company Urken Bisakayev told about the work being done in this direction.

— Urken Serikkaliyevich, how fast is the tourist industry developing, what are the results of this work today?

— According to the results of the last year, tourism development indicators are favorable. The number of foreigners who came to us in 2018 amounted to 8.79 million people, which represents an increase of 14.1% compared with 2017, and compared with the figures for 2015–2016 — 36.7% and 35%, respectively. In 2018, the amount of tourism services provided reached 104 billion tenge. (The statistics take into account the total number of visitors, including travelers for business purposes, for seeing friends and relatives, as well as for leisure).

Of all the countries, the United Arab Emirates, India and Malaysia stand out, from these countries arrivals to Kazakhstan increased by 50%, 49% and 44% over the past year. The number of tourists from Hong Kong (22%), Poland (16%) and South Korea (15%) also continues to grow. Stable growth is observed from Russia — the main foreign target market of Kazakhstan in attracting tourists.

It should be noted that in 2018 new regular flights from Tyumen, Krasnodar, Tomsk, Chelyabinsk, Sochi (to Nur-Sultan), Kazan (to Nur-Sultan), Krasnoyarsk (to Almaty), Moscow (to Kyzylorda), Novosibirsk (to Pavlodar), as well as additional flights from Ekaterinburg, Omsk, St. Petersburg were opened in 2018.

In 2018, Kazakhstan and foreign airlines opened new flights in the following directions: Atyrau – Frankfurt, Nur-Sultan – Vilnius, Nur-Sultan – Dushanbe, Almaty – Riga, Nur-Sultan – Helsinki.

The presence of direct flights plays a significant role in the arrival of foreign citizens in Kazakhstan, and taking into account the new flights, we hope for a further increase in flows from these markets. For example, the opening of direct flights from countries such as Poland (Nur-Sultan – Warsaw, LOT), the United Arab Emirates (Dubai – Almaty, Dubai – Aktau, Fly Dubai) and India (Nur-Sultan – Delhi, Air Astana) significantly increased the arrivals from these markets.

To attract foreign tourists, in 2018, 72-hour visa-free transit was introduced for citizens of the People's Republic of China and India, traveling through the cities of Almaty and Nur-Sultan.

— What measures have already been taken to create a more attractive tourist climate?

— The process of legislative changes has been initiated with the aim of the economic transformation of tourism into a fully-fledged competitive industry capable of attracting both national and foreign tourists. The draft law will be submitted to the Majilis and adopted this year.

At the same time, the development of domestic tourism is underway within the framework of the “Rouhani Zhangyru” Program, the articles of the First President – Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev “Seven Facets of the Great Steppe.” The reconstruction of the ancient settlement Turkestan, Otyrar, Kultobe, Sauran, the development of the Tanbaly, Ulytau museum-reserves and the creation of new ones — “Botai” in the North Kazakhstan region and “Bozok” in Nur-Sultan already create conditions for increasing the number of trips of our citizens.

The key package of measures is identified in the State Program for Tourism Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2019-2025. These include targeted development of priority tourist areas  with emphasis on infrastructure and services, the provision of tax benefits to the participants, the development of tourism in national parks, additional subsidies for domestic flights, as well as free flights for children during the holidays and other measures.

It should be borne in mind that the tourism sector is very strongly associated with other sectors of the economy. The use of tourist potential will give impetus to the growth of business — tourism will become more attractive for private investment.

— Summer is coming, time for holidays. Where can Kazakhstani people go in the country? Where do Kazakhstanis mostly prefer to spend their vacation?

— According to official statistics, 4.7 million domestic tourists were in the country last year, which is 7% more than a year earlier. At the same time, this is only data on hotels, among which the majority are business visitors (travelers). Whereas a large segment of domestic tourists is the so-called visiting friends and relatives segment, who choose rental housing or stay with relatives and friends.

Kazakhstanis choose health and beach tourism. In summer, the coast of the Alakol lakes, Balkhash, the Caspian Sea, and the resort area of ​​Burabai are visited more and more. According to statistics, more than 1 million Kazakhstanis over the past year stopped in the resort areas of the country.

Historical, cultural and religious tourism also remains an active segment, especially in Turkestan, Zhambyl and Mangystau regions. Kazakhstanis visit the so-called "places of power," the places of life of great people, saints, mausoleums, temples and other monuments of natural cultural and historical heritage, as well as sacred mountains, caves, ancient settlements and other objects.

Actively growing number of tourists — lovers of adventure and sports. All sorts of bike rides, marathons and other sporting events began to attract thousands of participants from all over Kazakhstan. In particular, it is worth noting the growing interest in hiking, climbing, etc.

Weekend tours are also increasingly gaining popularity among the population. Such tours are already quite developed around Nur-Sultan and Almaty. At the same time, the national natural parks of the country became the core of these tours. Attendance of specially protected natural areas is growing every year. So, in 2018, the number of visitors to the national parks was 1,234,362 people (in 2010 — 538,001 people).

— What do you think, is it profitable to spend holidays without leaving the country? What positive sides of it can you mention?

— Speaking about the benefits of recreation inside the country, naturally, first of all, it is necessary to note the security issues, availability of medical care, the absence of a language barrier, etc. But the main motivation for our compatriots should be the opportunity to study their native country and become familiar with national, historical and cultural, as well as the natural values ​​of the state, which contributes to the intellectual, spiritual and creative development, as well as the patriotic education of the younger generation.

In order to compare Kazakhstan's destinations with popular beach resorts in the world, it is necessary to develop the Caspian coast, which was chosen as one of the priorities for the development of beach tourism.

May 31, the Prime Minister Askar Mamin and the Minister of Culture and Sports Arystanbek Mukhamediuly laid a stone at the construction site of a new international class resort near Aktau. Such resorts will appear through public-private partnerships, where the state builds infrastructure, and businesses build hotels and entertainment venues.

— Many citizens complain that vacation abroad is cheaper than at home. Can you comment on that?

— With regard to pricing, the cost of recreation should take into account seasonality, the structure of the tourist offer, the type of tourism and many other related factors. For example, pre-purchased tickets will cost less than tickets purchased directly before the trip, and the price of a resort hotel varies depending on the season and occupancy: during the peak season, the price will definitely be more expensive than in the "low" season.

There is an opinion that a vacation inside the country is more expensive than abroad. At the same time, prices are often compared in Turkey and Burabay. These two destinations differ not only in the level of infrastructure development, but also in the tourist offer, duration of the tourist season and other conditions. At the same time, Burabay cannot be compared with Antalya, it is a different product and it cannot be interchanged even at equal prices.

Burabay is a destination for one-day tours, weekends and short-term rest, as shown by statistics of 3-4 days (with the exception of spa treatment) with more emphasis on eco-adventure tourism, with a peculiar climate and a very short season. Even so, in the resort area you can find placements on almost every pocket: from tents and guest houses to a five-star hotel. There are questions about the level of service, but it is rather an evolutionary process that requires time and sufficient competition.

— Take the average Kazakhstani family, how much will it cost to rest at local resorts?

— As noted above, prices depend on the season, category of accommodation, structure of the tourist offer, food (all included, breakfast only, etc.) and many other related factors. For example, a standard room with breakfast in a three-star hotels of the Shchuchinsk-Borovoe resort area in summer ranges from 10 to 30 thousand per adult. Many hotels offer a discount, and for children under 5 years old — free accommodation.

In the resort area of ​​Saryagash, for example, the price for living in a standard room with five meals a day and a treatment program ranges from 11 to 15 thousand tenge. Many motels also offer certain discounts for children.

On the coast of Alakol, the average room rate in recreation centers with full board varies at the level of 10-12 thousand tenge. At the same time, you can find a place twice cheaper or three times more expensive. It all depends on the request of the tourist.

At the same time, in order to reduce prices for holidays in the country, the State Tourism Program covers air tickets for children under the KIDS GO FREE principle according to the “1 + 2” scheme (there are two children for one parent) provided that they spend holidays in Kazakhstan resorts. This measure will save the family budget when buying a holiday in the country for a family of five people, on average, 100 thousand tenge.

— Please, name the top 5 unexplored places in Kazakhstan for a great holiday (nature, location, prices). Are there little-known places for tourism among them?

— Each region of our country is rich in natural, historical and cultural heritage, many of which are not popular enough today.

The main reasons for this, along with the lack of proper supply and infrastructure, is the lack of information. Residents of the western regions of the country simply do not know what is in the east or in the south of the country, and vice versa. Even representatives of tourist companies admit that they have not been to many cities and tourist places of the country. Therefore, last month we launched the information tours in Kazakhstan for domestic travel companies. The first round was held with the participation of 12 travel agents and operators from four regions of Western Kazakhstan with a visit to Nur-Sulatan, Burabay, Shymkent, Saryagash, Almaty, Almaty and East Kazakhstan regions. Following the results of some companies that took part in the info tour, sales of tours for the summer season are already underway in the sanatorium of Saryagash, Burabay and East Kazakhstan. This practice will continue with the participation of representatives of travel agencies from other regions.

Last year, the Government developed the so-called Touristization Map of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which defines the top 10 objects of republican and top 50 objects of regional significance.

The top 10 sites include the Nur-Sultan, Imantau-Shalkar, Shchuchinsk-Borovoe resort areas, Bayanaul, the shores of Lake Alakol, Balkhash, the mountain cluster of the Almaty region, Mangystau and Turkestan. These territories have the greatest potential in terms of tourism development.

The state program will provide for the development of the necessary infrastructure in these areas, which, in turn, will create more comfortable conditions for the stay of tourists.

In this case, each of the top 10 or 50 objects has not been studied at 100%. Even in Bayanaul, Balkhash, Turkestan, where there are already established flows, there are places and objects that are known only to a few.

That is why, within the framework of the state program, work is planned to promote these places both domestically and abroad.

Our country can offer tourists a varied holiday. Selection of places can be made based on the types of tourism, but everyone should see these 10 places: Kaindy, Borovoye, Bozzhyra, Rakhman streams, Korgalzhyn lakes, Aktau mountains and the famous Singing Dunes, Belukha, Charyn Canyon, Kolsai Lakes and Inder.

— What kind of image work is carried out by Kazakhstan for greater visibility and attraction of tourists?

— For 1.5 years, substantial work was done, event events were held, a number of info-tours, blog tours and expeditions were organized with the participation of over 30 travel bloggers from different countries, a bank of 3,000 photos and 5 hours of video was assembled, the country tourist portal Kazakhstan.travel was re-launched. There are videos on Euronews, programs on Kazakh TV, NTV, Russia-1 and other TV channels.

At the same time, many activities were carried out on a partnership basis without the cost of budget funds. This includes the launch of the program of the Ambassadors of Tourism of the Republic of Kazakhstan, placement of commercials at stations and airports, the creation of sections of acquaintance with Kazakhstan on entertainment programs onboard Air Astana airplanes and trains of Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, etc.

— What cultural and historical sights can attract foreign tourists?

— In Kazakhstan there are many historical and cultural sites that should be visited by everyone, and some of them are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Everything depends on the preferences of tourists: it is interesting for many to travel along the Silk Road, see Ancient Taraz, visit Turkestan and visit the mausoleums of Khoja Ahmed Yassawi, Arystan Baba, Otrar and Sauran. Others rush to see the Beket-Ata and Shakpak-Ata necropolis in the Mangystau region, the Tamgaly petroglyphs in the Almaty region or the Berel and Shilikty kurgans in East Kazakhstan, as well as numerous fortifications and other religious buildings.

— To what extent is online travel developed in Kazakhstan? What are its prospects?

— Today, about 3.5 billion people have access to the internet, these are people of all ages with different levels of education and income. According to Google research, the choice of a vacation spot is 65% of tourists influenced by inspiration from online resources.

Today there is a limited number of online offers of tourist services from domestic business participants, and most of them are proposals for air tickets and tickets for major events. We are not taking into account the foreign portals such as booking.com, hotels.com, aviasales.com.

The key project implemented by the Kazakh Tourism company in this segment should be the national tourism portal, Kazakhstan.travel. At the moment the portal is available in 6 languages ​​— Kazakh, Russian, English, French, German, Chinese. This year, Korean will be added. The portal serves as the inspiration of a foreign tourist on a trip to our country, talks about key features and attractions. The portal also has a section for business that allows you to register a tour for operators, guides, tourist agencies, artisans and souvenir shops for free to post information about their routes, products and services. This year we plan to significantly expand the functionality for the business.

Also, as part of the development of the portal, an initiative was proposed — the E-hotel project. An important task is to automate the issuance of electronic invitations for obtaining e-visas. Also E-hotel will allow you to create a single database of hotels and other accommodations. In the future, this project should become a single window for receiving information for placements.

The state program also plans to provide free internet in the top 10 priority tourist areas, issuing mobile MiFi routers for foreign tourists who work as a PowerBank and an SOS button. For the development of domestic tourism, a project of gamification of sacred places has also been proposed, designed to interest the younger generation to travel around Kazakhstan.

— Thank you for the interview!

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