Prospects for tourism development in Kazakhstan
June 20. Kazpravda
By Samat MUSTAHIMOV
As it is known, one of the priority sectors of the state program of accelerated industrial innovative development is tourism.
A month ago, the Government discussed and adopted a new Concept for tourism industry’s development until 2020 with large-scale transformations, including the creation of five tourism clusters and a range of measures aimed at strengthening the investment attractiveness of the industry.
The document contains systemic plans for tourism development with specific measures on the creation of favorable investment climate in Kazakhstan and special tourist zones. The proposed system is as follows:
1) Cluster Astana (the capital itself, the Akmola oblast, south-western part of the North Kazakhstan oblast, western part of the Pavlodar oblast and north-eastern part of the Karaganda oblast);
2) Cluster Almaty (Almaty region, part of the city Almaty as the center of Almaty Cluster);
3) Cluster East Kazakhstan (northern and eastern parts of EKO);
4) Cluster South Kazakhstan (includes the central and eastern parts of the Kyzylorda region, southern part of the South-Kazakhstan region and south-western part of Zhambyl region);
5) Cluster Western Kazakhstan (Mangistau region with the city of Aktau as its center).
The concept implies the abolition of visa regime for citizens of economically and politically stable countries, changes in the legal framework, the introduction of tourist certificates for domestic tourism, development of internal market of transportation and subsidies for internal air routes. It is expected that in the near future these measures will help remove the main administrative, financial, tax and other barriers to the development of inbound and domestic tourism, and will strengthen the position of small and medium-sized business involved in the infrastructure development.
Some improvements have been already observed in the industry. Thus, Kazakhstan in the Competitiveness Index for Tourism in the period from 2011 to 2013, shifted by 5 positions, and now takes 88th place.
According to JSC KIDI, in 2012 extensive studies of the tourist industry were carried out, both at the level of the republic and in the regions, (system tourism plans of Borovskoye resort area in the Akmola region, Kendere resort in the Almaty ski area). In keeping with the measures proposed in the document the work of the Tourism Council under the Government was intensified and tourist departments were established in the city Almaty, Almaty oblast, Akmola, Mangistau and South Kazakhstan regions.
In addition, the Tourism Committee has done much work to promote the industry’s development, including organization of the republican contest “Myths and Legends” and recently launched project “The best regional start-up projects in the tourism sector.”
At the same time, domestic tourism is facing difficulties due to poor infrastructure.
– The lack of consistency in services, poor quality of transport infrastructure, non- compliance of statistics with international standards, insufficient funding of tourism in the regions, the lack of scientific research base, weak marketing and incompliance of prices with quality of services are the main reasons hindering the development of domestic tourism, said director of Kazakhstan Tourist Association Rashid Shaikenov.
About 60 percent of travel agencies operating in the country (the number of which exceeds a thousand), are focused exclusively on outbound tourism, and the remaining tour operators alternate outbound and inbound tourism, offering for example such places as Alakol resort, the infrastructure of which is still in “embryo state” .
Slightly better is the situation in other places: the famous Charyn Canyon, known to many as the Valley of Castles is just a dozen kilometers from the main road, but for the absence of asphalt, in summer there are clouds of dust and impassable mud in the off season.
Among positive changes is the Mangistau region, the leadership of which for several years has been developing their tourist opportunities. In February this year, they held a large scale meeting on the development of domestic tourism in the region. Following that event, Vice Minister of Industry and New Technologies Nurlan Sauranbayev and deputy oblast governor Rakhymbek Amirzhanov signed a memorandum on cooperation between the Ministry and the regional administration in the field of tourism.
The Mangistau region, by right is called “museum in the open air” where 11 thousand historical monuments are under the state protection. According to statistics, last year revenues from tourism activities amounted to 4.7 billion tenge and 4 615 people are employed in the industry representing 2.9 percent of the total employment. The leading position in this sector belongs to the international recreation area Kenderli, which currently is under construction. According to plans, the tourists can come here all year round.
As for additional funds, recently the Swiss-Spanish company THR, which is part of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), joined the project.
It is necessary to invest $ 3.2 billion for successful development and implementation of tourism projects in the resort area Kenderli. And the company is ready for their part to attract 5-10 big investors, said president of TIR Eulogio Bodas.
The ecological situation and environment will also improve because the traffic of vehicles with ICE (internal combustion engines) will be forbidden at the new resort and overall traffic will be limited. As for geographical coverage, the main tourists will be mostly residents of Russia and eastern countries and about 15 percent of their total number will be representatives of Asian region.
As noted chairman of the Tourism Committee Marat Igaliyev, the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies and oblast administration will closely cooperate in the development of domestic tourism, including in the activities aimed at improvement of tourist image, the quality of tourist products and services, investments and training of employees in the tourism sector. In addition, special tourist products will be developed in the frames of preparations for the international exhibition EXPO-2017.
Another important area of the work is promoting, information and presentation activities. In the current year Kazakhstan is promoting its tourist opportunities in a number of international exhibitions. In May this year the Tourism Committee presented the Kazakh stand at the international tourist exhibition ArabianTravelMarket-2014 in Dubai. It should be noted that it attracted interest of potential Arab investors. Besides, some regions of the republic signed agreements with their partners on cooperation in the field of tourism.
The exhibition presented all components of the tourist industry – tourism international federations, national and regional tourism organizations, tourism and travel agencies and tour operators, hotels, insurance companies, etc. Over 20 thousand people from more than 135 countries took part in the exhibition.
Also the growth of business activity was marked in the regions of the country. Not so long ago, the Akmola regional tourism department with the support of the oblast administration and RK Tourism Committee held in the Burabai village a tourist fair “Tourism. Recovery. Travel 2014.”
The East Kazakhstan oblast will implement the project “Golden Altai – wealth for the regional development” proposed by the Slovak Association “Swallowtail International” and supported by EKO administration. The project will be implemented in 2 years – from 2014 to 2016 and the EU will finance it in the amount of 350 thousand euros in the three pilot districts – Katonkaragay, Ridder and Kurchuem.
About 550 companies from more than forty countries of the world took part in the recently held fourteenth Kazakhstan International Exhibition “Tourism and Travel” – KITF 2014 in Almaty.
The main obstacle to the full development of tourism in Kazakhstan, as said the vast majority of respondents of the survey conducted during the event, is the lack of adequate infrastructure, low quality of services, high prices in hotels, limited choice of airlines, complicated visa procedures and corruption. But, nevertheless, in the light of recent positive changes, only 15 percent of respondents showed a pessimistic mood. Others consider that the prospects for the development of Kazakhstan’s tourism are good enough, taking into account the tasks set out in the Concept.
The total budget of 16 oblast administrations in 2014 allocated to promote tourism is more than.553 million tenge. According to MINT, the income of organizations that provide services in tourist activity for five years has increased by 95 percent and amounted to 151.6 billion tenge. As a consequence, the number of tourist firms has grown by 767 and reached last year 1 994 of different companies.
As for the future investment plans in the regions, as said Board’s chairman of the JSC Kazakhstan institute of industry’s development Azamat Ahmerov currently they have already developed system plans for Schuchinsk- Borovoye resort area and a package of clear rules for investors: who will be the owner of the land and who will be responsible for the construction and maintenance of infrastructure in resort area. In March this year, the participants of the international seminar held in the trampoline complex Sunkar in Almaty discussed the issues of development of ski tourism in the republic. The Burabai resort area which has an unofficial status of Kazakhstani “Switzerland” in the next few years will be transformed into a modern all-season resort of international class, capable of handling up to 93 million tourists. Annually more than 3 billion tenge is allocated from the state budget for this purpose.
As it is seen, solid fund are invested in the development of the industry and for quite a short period щf time a very solid return is also expected.
– Tourism should be a priority sector of the economy, – said Deputy Prime Minister Aset Isekeshev at the government meeting in May this year. – It’s time to withdraw the industry from social sphere and the category of non-core assets. The tourist branch can develop and grow faster than the GDP and one job in this industry costs 10 times less than in the manufacturing industry. Tourism in the global economy is one of the leading creators of jobs; it creates over 75 million vacancies in the world. Every 11-12 employee works in this sector and international tourism provides employment, first of all for youth and women.