What is necessary for Kazakhstan for successful development of tourism and what is particularly done to improve the tourist attractiveness of the country and much more in an exclusive interview of Prime Minister.kz with the chairman of the Committee of the Tourism Industry of the Ministry of Culture and Sport of the Republic Kazakhstan, Mainyura Murzamadiyeva .

– Mainyura Savetovna, could you, please, tell us what was done over the year of the creation of the Committee of the Tourism Industry?

– 2017 was a turning point for the development of Kazakhstan’s tourism. At the beginning of the year, by order of the Head of State, the Committee of the Tourism Industry was formed and integrated into the Ministry of Culture and Sports. The concept was developed, updated for the development of the tourist industry until 2023, and in June of 2017, this concept was approved by a government decree. In July, the national company “Kazakh Tourism” was established, and I want to say, that within the framework of the project management, the tourism entered the Olympic track. The industry faces very ambitious tasks, such as an increase of the share of tourism from the current 1% to 8% by 2025. In addition, an increase of employment from 390 thousand people in 2017 to 660 thousand people by 2025. In this regard, the program documents such as the Government’s decree on the development of the Shchuchinsk-Borovoe resort zone and the road map of Astana were approved last year. At present, in order to implement the concept for the development of the tourism industry, we have developed a plan of actions. The plan is at the stage of coordination with state bodies. Tourism has been developing for many years in Kazakhstan, but this year gave a strong push, a powerful push for its further development.

– Kazakhstan, having a rich tourist potential, is characterized by an insufficient level of tourism development. What was implemented to increase the attractiveness of tourism?

– Tourism is a very highly profitable and promising industry, which attracts more than $800 billion of direct investment. The Head of the State places special emphasis to the development of tourism. In his message, the President noted that one of the most promising sources of income is the development of domestic and inbound tourism. “The message” is that it is necessary to develop domestic and inbound tourism in every region, because tourism is destined to become the driver, the main engine of our economy. The international specialized exhibition EXPO-2017 gave a big impetus to the development of tourism; it attracted millions of tourists and certainly promoted the country’s tourist image. First, successful carrying of the “EXPO” demonstrated that the country is ready to accept large flows of tourists and provide quality tourist services. In order to develop tourism in the country, the government specially created the national company “Kazakh Tourism”. It gathered a very strong team of gifted, talented, highly professional, competent specialists, who worked in the tourism industry for more than a year and this campaign is intended to promote tourism products both on domestic and in the foreign market, as well as attract both domestic and foreign investors.

– What problems need to be solved in the first instance, in order to attract tourists to Kazakhstan? You worked in such countries as the USA, Holland, Norway, can we adopt somebody’s experience, or do we have our own tourism development strategy?

– If we talk about the successful development of tourism, then it is necessary to solve two issues – Visa Free and Open Sky. Visa Free is a visa-free regime and a lot has been done in this direction in our country. We have a visa-free regime for citizens of 63 countries, and since we defined the target market in our concept, and according to it, priority zones are the countries that are within a 4-5 hour radius from Kazakhstan, these countries are Russia, China, India, Iran, the countries of the Persian Gulf. We are currently trying to create conditions for tourists from these countries. Within the framework of the pilot project during the EXPO-2017, a 72-hour visa-free transit for tourists from the PRC was launched. According to preliminary calculations, for about three months, about 4.5 thousand people visited Kazakhstan and each of them left $200-300, overall $ 1.5 million, for the economy. At the moment, we are trying to prolong this transit for China for this year, also we have launched the same visa-free transit for tourists from India. Open Sky is the “open sky” mode, which worked for us during the “EXPO”. The concept is simple; it means that every international air carrier having the right to fly to the capital, almost seven days a week, is not subsidized by the state, this is “Open Sky”. During the EXPO, many airlines were added to our airlines: from Finland, Poland, Hungary and at the moment they also operate their flights and there are no restrictions on flights flying to the capital, but we will work in other regions. These two conditions must be guaranteed, and then we can say that we have all the opportunities for the successful development of tourism in the country. Speaking about international experience, of course, while we were developing the concept, we studied the experience of countries such as the United States, Great Britain, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. In these countries, tourism is given a lot of emphasis, and tourism is the most important and largest sector of the economy in these countries. For example, in Turkey, the share of tourism in the breakdown of GDP is 12%, in Spain – 9%, in Great Britain – 9-8%, if we are talking about the United States, then this country has the largest number of attractions and museums. When we talk about foreign experience, it is clear that we are extracting something useful for ourselves, but we certainly try to develop it taking into account our specifics, features, culture, history and traditions. Millions of tourists want to visit New York, it is the “Big Apple City”, of course, the inexperienced tourist will always be interested, but where is the birthplace of apples, and the birthplace of apples is located in Almaty, so we plan to hold international festivals like “Apple Fest”, apple blossom festival “Apple Blossom” to promote these points of attraction. In Europe, many are surprised when they learn that the birthplace of tulips is Kazakhstan, it is our Zhambyl region, and we want to promote this topic so that many tourists can come and see the true deposit of such beautiful flowers. And of course we have many places as these, in the north of Kazakhstan there is Botay, where the horse was first domesticated, we have the space industry on Baikonur, sacred places and therefore we have the possibilities, conditions, the only thing remained to do is to develop and show them as the tourist product to attract tourists.

– Speaking about the Concept of the development of the tourism industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan, could you tell us about the main directions of improving the legislation in the sphere of tourism? Will anything change?

– The concept is a fundamental, program document and legal basis, it is the law on tourist activity. First, when we were established, we conducted a careful review of all legislative acts concerning updates and developed a draft concept of the law on amendments and additions to the legislative acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on tourist activities. Why do we do this? Because in the new concept we defined new directions, this is the development of hunting tourism, medical tourism, sports tourism, and children and youth tourism. Therefore, we need to amend the law to expand the objects of tourist activity. We also want the tourism industry to be a priority for investors; we want to provide them with clear information about expected benefits, preferences in Kazakhstan. In this regard, we have a special Social-Tourist Expert Group. Now, we are conducting cooperation with Tourism Associations, tourist business, deputies, government agencies, and we hope that the draft concept will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice in February, to the Government in March and in May will be already included in the Parliament to approve the Plan of legislative works.

– Could you tell us about the promotion of the national tourist product, what measures have been developed to increase the level of the country’s attractiveness for inbound tourism and attraction of investors?

– In Kazakhstan, we plan to form a tourist product in two directions: ecotourism and ethnotourism, and for this we have all the conditions. We have the unique nature: magnificent mountains in the South for the development of ski tourism, wonderful lakes such as the Caspian Riviera, Kapchagay, Alakol, Markakol for the development of coastal tourism, and of course we have beautiful national parks. The development of ethno- and ecotourism will contribute to the development of event and entertaining tourism. We believe that the development of these directions of tourism has a social aspect, because young people will not go to the city, they will be interested to stay in the village, where the production of handicrafts, souvenirs will grow; guest houses will be developed, it will be interesting for young people: to find a stable work, moreover, a local guide knows best his area and the region, and they will stay to insure employment of the population. In these areas we work very tightly with all regions. In relation to the “Digital Kazakhstan”, we are currently working on the “Digital Portal” project, an electronic system that gives you access to information and you can book tickets, book hotels and have feedback while sitting at home. It will also be easy for tourists to get directions to attractions to visit our beautiful places.

– Could you tell us how the infrastructure of the tourist facilities develops in the republic? What with such projects as Shchuchinsk-Borovoe resort area, ski areas near Almaty, as well as a master plan of the cluster program of tourism development in East Kazakhstan Region? What other projects are planned?

– In order to implement the Concept of the development of the tourism industry and to improve tourism in a particular region “a road map” is being developed in each region. The program of the development of the Shchuchinsk-Borovsky resort zone consists of 34 events. First and foremost, it is the development of the tourist potential of the Shchuchinsk-Borovsky resort zone, the development of infrastructure projects and transport and logistics infrastructure. In the Almaty region, there are many opportunities for the development of ski tourism. East Kazakhstan Region is a pearl of Altai, and it is certainly the beautiful Alakol and Markakol lakes, and the government of that region works very actively. In 2017, all roads that run to these attractions have been reconstructed and the coast of the lake Alakol is refined. In this regard, all the conditions for staying there are created for our citizens of Kazakhstan. We have big plans for 2018. We continue to work systematically to develop infrastructure around growth areas, and we continue to develop roadside service. This year we will work actively with the Ministry of Agriculture, specifically with the Forestry and Wildlife Committee in order to develop tourism in national parks. Our national company “Kazakh Tourism”, which works abroad, promotes the tourist products and plans to hold seven international exhibitions, various press tours with the participation of foreign journalists, also events will be held within the framework of celebrating the 20th anniversary of Astana. It is planned to continue work on development of Shchuchinsk-Borovoe resort zone, tourism in Mangistau region, and construction of an entertainment park in Almaty region. In conclusion, I would like to say that to implement all the tasks set by the Head of State and Government, the Committee will make every effort to make a significant breakthrough in tourism, so that in the future tourism will actually become a driver of the economy and that it will take a worthy place on the world tourism map.

– Thank you for the interview.