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September 10, 2016

The Land of Opportunities


Membership in the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has been contributing to the active development of tourism in Uzbekistan. In the framework of this cooperation, 19 countries adopted the Samarkand Declaration on Silk Road Tourism in 1994. The Khiva Declaration on tourism and preservation of cultural heritage was supported by

UNWTO, UNESCO and the Council of Europe in 1999. In 2002, they adopted the Bukhara Declaration on Silk Road Tourism, which emphasizes the benefits of sustainable tourism and identifies specific steps to promote the cultural and ecological tourism in this area.

UNWTO opened its regional office in Samarkand in 2004 to coordinate the development of tourism along the Silk Road. It runs its offices only in two countries – Japan and Uzbekistan. Its major mission is to define development vectors not just for regional, but also for the international tourism. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan has been developing new types of tourism. For example, a medical tourism department has been recently launched in the structure of the Ministry of Health. The outbound tourism that involves the treatment of Uzbek people in other countries is promoted concurrently with the inbound tourism, when foreigners are treated in Uzbek clinics. The flow of tourists pursuing medical purposes to Uzbekistan fr om Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and other countries has significantly increased. The dental tours, which are usually combined with entertaining and introductory events, are the most striking manifestation of inbound tourism. More than a thousand of dental clinics in Uzbekistan provide prompt and quality service for patients. This service is second only to the therapeutic one in the number of applications.

Leadership is Key

Today, tourism has a significant share in the gross domestic product in many countries. Uzbekistan has just embarked on making it like that, by building the necessary infrastructure. The National Company Uzbektourism acts as a state regulator of the sector. In addition, there are 1,176 tourism organizations, including 621 tour operators, 555 hotel economies. An extensive network of hotels numbering a total of over 25,000 beds meets international standards.

Twenty-five years ago the country was challenged by problems with staff, which are gradually being addressed.

There are five higher educational institutions that specialize in staff training for this sector: Samarkand Institute of Economics and Service, the Tashkent State Economic University, Bukhara and Urgench State Universities, and Singapore Institute of Management Development in Tashkent. Every year, more than 500 graduates of this specialization receive a Bachelor’s Degree, and more than 40 get Master’s. 12 vocational colleges graduate more than 3.500 related specialists. They now play a key role in the development of infrastructure and promotion of new tourism products in the world markets.

For example, largely owing to the graduates of the Samarkand Institute of Economics and Service, the traditional tours to the Samarkand monuments were replenished with the offers that turned into the spotlight of many tours. In particular, the guests are offered event tourism, or an imaginative journey through the time. They are invited into a historical madrassah for a costume interactive show.

All the above-mentioned transformations can now be followed at international tourism exhibitions. The Tashkent International Tourism Fair ‘Tourism on the Silk Road’ ranks among the most important annual events. It is the largest forum in Central Asia, a venue for industry professionals, negotiations in different formats, including business-to-business, a platform for implementation of the Hosted Buyers program for customers of the national tourism product, conferences on relevant issues of development of the tourism industry in Uzbekistan and the world in general. Representatives of Uzbekistan regularly participate in foreign international fairs and exhibitions in order to present the tourism capacity of the republic. Such an involvement allows staying abreast of the latest trends on the global tourism market, entering into business contracts and developing cooperation with foreign partners.

The Path to the Unexplored

The scaled changes that have been taking place over the past 25 years have promoted traveling. 11 airports received the status of international harbors. Comfortable aircrafts of the Uzbekistan Airways National Airline perform regular flights to over 40 cities in Europe, Asia, Middle East and America. On the threshold of the Independence Day the country’s civil aviation fleet will be replenished with the advanced Boeing Dreamliner.

The guests of Uzbekistan have the opportunity to get to the country’s attractions also by rail. Along with the usual trains, high speed trains by the Spanish Talgo run between Tashkent, Samarkand and Karshi, thereby significantly increasing the quality of guest service and reducing travel time. In June 2016, the world witnessed another breakthrough in the development of tourism and transport industry of Uzbekistan: the republic launched the electrified railway line Angren-Pap, which connected the picturesque Fergana valley with the rest of the country.

Construction and repair works are underway under the Tourism Development Program for 2016 – 2019, which provides for the reconstruction and repair of access roads to historical monuments and tourist areas. The road to the architectural ensemble of Bahauddin Naqshbandi in Bukhara was restored. Specialists have embarked on the repair of access roads to the historical monuments in Khiva with a total length of 13 km. The restoration of roads adjacent to the Al-Termezi mausoleum in Surkhandarya region is nearing its completion.

Despite significant progress, experts still point out to the need for further development of tourism infrastructure. Tourist routes of most foreign guests include four places:  Tashkent as the gateway to the country and the links with more than 40 countries, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khorezm. At the same time, it was noticed that during the trip the foreigners spend the bulk of their time in Bukhara because of the high concentration of landmarks and tourist facilities. Meanwhile, tourists stay in Khiva no longer than a day, though it is as rich in monuments as Bukhara.

To remedy the situation, the Khiva authorities are currently actively building modern hotels. Some of them are located on the territory of the museum under the open sky of Ichan-Kala, the others are situated beyond it. Tourists need a choice for an interesting pastime. The need has entailed the development of gastronomic tourism: local restaurants serve the native Khorezm cuisine, offering guests active forms of tourism. There are now tourist centers around the water reserve not far fr om the Ichan-Kala, wh ere travelers are offer boating, hunting, fishing, and a walk in the apple orchard, which grows on the rocks. The guests are even offered some of the agricultural tourism. The representatives of the local branch of the Uzbektourism Agency told how much delighted the foreigners were at the opportunity of collecting cotton.

Meanwhile, there are still numerous places in the country that are not equipped for tourism, though their number is decreasing. For example, the Sentob village in Nurota district of Navoi region was arranged a few years ago. The number of visitors to the unique Chashma spring with a well shaped as a human hand, and a unique glow that can be seen there early in the morning, has increased with the construction of a modern hotel, restaurants, landscaped neighborhood.

Tourism infrastructure has been evolving in Karakalpakstan too, which will soon be as popular as Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva. The Beruni and Ellikkala districts with their archaeological sites are of great interest for those who what to explore the ancient civilization. However, due to poor infrastructure, these places were virtually unexplored.

Today, the situation is changing: the Beruni district is currently under a large-scale reconstruction. The tourist pilgrimage sites are being landscaped. Yurt tourist camps have been established near monuments in the neighboring Ellikkala district. Access roads are currently being repaired there.

Promising Destinations

In recent years, Uzbekistan has been actively introducing new types of travels, including ecotourism. The availability of in reserves, national parks, nurseries, nature reserves, natural monuments, and biosphere reserves makes ecotourism very promising. The gastronomic trend has been gaining popularity too: its development has made the pilau and other national dishes a recognized brand.

The construction of recreation areas and comfortable infrastructure facilities has been in progress in the regions. For example, the recreation centers Chimgan, Beldersay and Charvak in Tashkent region provide good conditions for skiing and other winter sports. They offer the mountain trails of different types fr om 300 to 3,000 meters.

Travel agencies offer tours to every taste. The extreme tours in the mountains and deserts of the country for real adventurers have been getting popular: camel rides in deserts and steppes, hiking tracks around the Big Chimgan, a fascinating route along the Aydarkul Lake called ‘Sailing’, ‘A fishing tour for rainbow trout’, and much more.

There are almost untouched huge reserves for tourism development. In recent years, experts of the Research Institute of Mineral Resources have been actively developing the geotourism. The scientific research has revealed the truly enormous opportunities.

The number of geoparks based on natural geological monuments has been growing worldwide. Their network has been expanding with the support of the authoritative international organizations like UNESCO, the International Union of Geological Sciences, the International Geographical Union, and others. The parks ensure the protection of geological objects from the negative impact of various factors, and the need for the development of the tourism infrastructure provides employment for local people living, promoting their well-being.

The eastern chink of Ustyurt on the western shore of the Aral Sea is an extraordinary object. It is experiencing the destruction processes due to the geological structure of the plateau itself, and due to the hydro-geological, gravity and other processes.

The southwest Hissar with the areas of undisturbed primary layers of bedding, which is rare in young and growing infolded (mountainous) areas is another promising area for the establishment of a geopark.

The upper streams of the Pskem are a third promising area. At this site, the tourists will get acquainted with the processes that shape the geomorphological appearance of the area.

The further development of the idea on creation of geoparks in Uzbekistan requires a fruitful synergy of researchers, legislators, builders, representatives of many professions who are capable of making unique natural sites attractive for tourists, as well as for a wide range of specialists.

So – welcome to Uzbekistan! If you still haven’t decided wh ere to go, stay tuned, and be sure to find something amazing for yourself.

Much to Show

Atabay Allabergenov, A businessman of Khiva district,  Khorezm region:

I am a hereditary fisherman and a farmer. I followed my father in cotton growing and fish breeding. I purchased a poultry farm, and then the carpet factory. Now, together with my sons we are discovering the intricacies of the tourism business. The local administration allocated a pond for us to landscape and commercialize it. The idea of ​​using the lake was suggested by the regional office of Uzbektourism. We built a hotel on the shore, and several tents for the ethnography amateurs. We planted the coast area with tugai, housed ducks and rabbits for hunting. We can also offer boating and fishing. As a rule, our customers are the ones who came to see the Ichan-Kala, and a hospitable ancient land.

… And a New Hotel 

Gulnora Kudratova, head of the Nurafshon Hotel, Bukhara:

A few years ago my husband and I decided to learn a new business, and opened a hotel, though initially we planned to build a furniture house on the plot of land we had purchased. The idea of opening a hotel was suggested by local authorities, which emphasized that the city needed comfortable hotels for tourists. I and my husband have always worked together, the daughters grew up by that time, so we needed a business which would engage the whole family. We arranged our daughters to study at the College of Tourism. In general, it all worked out well.

Our hotel is designed for those who want to plunge into the atmosphere of modern Bukhara, learn more about the way of life of its inhabitants, and architectural monuments in close distance from the hotel. In the future, we intend to expand the business and start organizing tourist tours for guests.

At the Non-Rural Scale 

Karamatillo Bahritdinov, A guide at the Sentob tourist complex, Nurota district of Navoi region:

Since ancient times our village has been famous for its springs and natural phenomena, so as far as I remember, we have always had a lot of tourists, but most of them were residents of other regions of Uzbekistan. The situation radically changed after the reconstruction of the village, arrangement of the ruins of an old fortress built in the time of Alexander the Great, the spring, and commissioning of the hotel and the musical fountain. Foreign tourists started visiting us. In the future, I think that their stay program can be supplemented with agricultural tourism, as we have a well developed horticulture, melon and karakul breeding in the region. There is a big quarry in the Gazgan village, wh ere artisans make beautiful lagans out of the granite.

Pleasantly Surprised 

Mario Baseo, a tourist from Italy:

When we saw our accommodation in a yurt at the Ayaz-Kala monument, we were very surprised. It turned out great! Our yurt camp located far from human settlements, with not a single person for many kilometers. We studied the arrangement of the yurt with great interest. It turns out that each knot, securing the bars, has its own purpose. In hot weather it is cool, but not cold at night. I liked that we can decide by ourselves when we want to visit the archaeological, and spend as much time for that, as we want. From the stories of guides we learned about other archaeological sites on the territory of Karakalpakstan. We saw only two of them, the others are not yet ready for visiting. It would be great if we could see all the monuments in our next visit.

Vast Space for Projects 

George Pyanovsky, Senior Specialist at the Scientific and Research Institute of Mineral Resources:

Our research has acquired a focus after the establishment of a special research group in our institute. Most likely Uzbekistan will be able to offer new facilities for the development of the tourism industry. Based on the UN Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of the Earth, scientists chose about 100 objects, whose characteristics can claim the status of geological monuments of nature. An even greater number of objects were identified as a reserve. The study of the country from the standpoint of geotourism allowed delineating the boundaries of the possible geological parks. There are three of them so far, but we keep working.