The whole world knows Uzbekistan as one of the oldest and greatest cradles of human civilization. Many dream to at least once see our ancient cities, touch the beautiful and unique nature of the country.
Registan Complex, Ulugbek’s observatory, Imam Bukhari Mausoleum in Samarkand, Ichankala in Khiva, the Ark in Bukhara, the Oksaroy in Shahrisabz, and Urda in Kokand are unique monuments of culture and art of the Uzbek people. Is it possible that the rock carvings in Sarmyshsay of Navoi region, ‘stone forest’ in Uchkuduk, Osman’s Koran in Tashkent avoid the interest of guests and domestic travelers? Can any creature stay indifferent to our diverse nature – the snowy peaks of Chimgan, or vast spaces of Kyzylkum Desert, the waterfalls rushing down the mountain slopes, the lakes that are home to dozens species of birds, the amazing flora of the republic?
There are a total of over 7,000 unique historical monuments in our country. What a huge number of natural monuments have been preserved in nature reserves and parks, thousands of rare exhibits in the museums, relished by splendid national dishes and typical hospitality and kindness of Uzbek people!
There are over 600 tourism companies, more than 660 hotels and campsites in Uzbekistan. Tourists are offered 110 international tourism routes on historical sites, natural attractions and recreational facilities. Ecotourism, geotourism, gastronomic, ethnographic, extreme, health and fitness tourism, climbing, fishing, rafting has been developing along with the traditional cultural and historical tourism.
Flights to more than 50 cities in the world are performed fr om 11 international airports of the republic. Revamped airports of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Urgench, Navoi and Ferghana are ready to take passengers fr om any country of the world. The high-speed train Afrosiyob quickly and comfortably delivers passengers to the destination.
The measures taken have been expanding the flow of tourists to our country year by year. Last year Uzbekistan was visited by over 2 million tourists.
This is a fairly good indicator, but it does not fully comply with the tourism potential of our country, which is now engaged by only 15% -20%.
WHAT IT TAKES TO INCREASE THE INDUSTRY CAPACITY
The answer to this question lies in the Presidential Decree ‘On measures to ensure the accelerated development of the tourism industry in the Republic of Uzbekistan’, which was approved in early December last year and is aimed at effective application of existing capacities, strengthening of institutional framework of the sector, and creation of amenities for tourists and preferences for tourism organizations.
The document envisages the establishment of the State Committee for Tourism Development of the Republic Uzbekistan on the basis of the National Company Uzbektourism.
The committee will focus not on control and administrative functions, but primarily on overall assistance to tourism-related entrepreneurial activities, elimination of all obstacles and barriers to its effective operation, and development of competition on the tourist services market.
Peace, security and economic stability in the country are seen as pivotal factors for the development and effectiveness of international tourism. Peace and tranquility prevail in Uzbekistan. However, apart fr om safety, tourists need modern and comfortable conditions. Therefore, the Decree sets a goal to develop this industry in line with current international standards, needs and requirements of tourists. Hotels, catering facilities, transport and logistics structures, information centers, cultural institutions and sports, road infrastructure will be built or renovated for the same purpose.
Once involved in abovementioned activities, foreign investors will be granted privileges. For example, legal entities are exempt for a period of five years from income tax, land tax and property tax, as well as unified tax payments associated with commissioning hotels and motels of at least ‘four stars’ level. Tour operators are exempt from the mandatory sale of foreign currency proceeds received from the provision of services.
For example, there are a decent number of modern hotels and new tourist routes. They need to be promoted, they need customers. The Decree highlights these issues as well. In particular, it defines the tasks on the development of strategies to promote products and services of the tourism industry on the domestic and international markets, on the creation and development of comfortable information environment for tourists, broad promotional activities, opening of tourist information centers in the regions of the country and tourism representative offices abroad, active use of Internet.
As proved by international practices, tourists prefer the countries that provide easy and convenient visa procedure. This is a tough issue. For this purpose, Uzbekistan will completely abolish since 2021 the visa procedure for citizens of 15 countries, and partly – for citizens of 12 countries, who have reached the age of 55, and who come to Uzbekistan for tourist purposes for a period under 30 days.
The Decree also sets scaled objectives for the development of cooperation with international organizations, licensing and certification of tourist services, staff training and advanced training, and other issues. In short, the important policy document covers all related areas of activity. This integrated approach is expected to promote the further development of tourism in Uzbekistan.
SAMARKAND SHOULD BE VISITED
The Presidential Decree on accelerated development of the tourism industry should bring the ongoing work on the development of tourism, effective use of its opportunities and enhancement of its role in the economy to a new level. This is proved by the example of Samarkand.
Uzbekistan ranks among the top ten countries in the world in the number of historical and cultural monuments. The bulk of this rich heritage falls on Samarkand. In 2001, the historical monuments located on the territory of the city were included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. Samarkand is recognized among the 50 must-visit cities in the world.
The Samarkand region developed and successfully implemented a targeted program of tourism development for 2016, which implied system-based initiatives on rational use of tourist resources in the region, expansion of the range of services and bringing their quality to the level of modern requirements. Large shopping malls, restaurants and tea-houses, various entertainment facilities were built.
Aiming to develop environmental, health, agriculture, and active tourism, and support the domestic tourism the authorities opened new tourist routes in Urgut, Samarkand, Jambay, Pakhtachi and Nurobod districts. The issues of staff training, retraining and advanced training have been of special importance. New disciplines and subjects were launched in Samarkand Institute of Economics and Service, Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages and Sartepa Vocational College of Tourism and Consumer Services.
More than 100 hotels and 84 travel agencies are currently functional in Samarkand. Their logistical capacity, opportunities for high-quality service in line with modern requirements have been expanding year by year.
Local tourism industry employees were enthusiastic about the Presidential Decree, which, for example, abolishes operating license for hotels and similar accommodation facilities.
The document stipulates measures on the creation and development of comfortable tourist information environment in airports and railway stations, including tourist information points. Now tourists can get information about local tour operators, hotels, and other issues directly in an airport or train station.
These amenities and features would promote the accelerated development of tourism as a strategic sector of the economy, further raise of Uzbekistan’s image as an attractive tourist destination.
NATURE, FOOD, CRAFTS
Ongoing reforms on the development of tourism have been having a positive impact on the improvement of the sector, increase of the tourist flow to not just renowned centers of tourism industry like Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, but also to other regions of the country.
They can be exemplified by Andijan region. Its authorities established cooperation with more than 50 domestic and foreign tourism organizations.
Particular attention has been paid to expansion of tourism products range, development of infrastructure, the offer of national tourist services in the domestic and foreign markets, repair and improvement of tourist facilities, improvement of infrastructure and services. For instance, tourist companies post information about tourism capacity of certain regions on their websites for foreign tourist organizations, provide information in Russian and English languages on ancient sites with rich history, unique cultural monuments, recreation areas in unique and picturesque places.
Booklets and manuals on tourist sites have been broadly distributed. There are almost 400 of them in the region. Most of them – museums, monuments – embody the history of the people, recreation areas, places of worship. Hiking trails have been developed for 22 sites.
Tourists actively visit recreation areas Shirmonbulok in Bulakbashi district, Hontog in Khanabad, archaeological sites Mirpustin-ota in Andijan, Sarvontepa in Jalakuduk district, Imam-ota in Khodjabad district, Uchbulok, Tuzluk momo in Balykchi district, Mingtepa in Marhamat district.
The quality of services for guests and travelers have been constantly improved, the holy places of worship and recreation areas have been landscaped.
The region’s museums of local history, literature and art are also attractive for tourists. The Literature and Art Museum displays ancient history of Andijan through more than 20,000 ancient artifacts, documents and manuscripts. Visitors take interest in madrassahs Hojar Noib, Kal’a architectural monument, exhibits of the Gallery of Fine Arts, documents of past eras.
Andijan is changing and getting a modern look day by day. Hotels and service points improve their performance. Foreign tourists enjoy high-level service in 20 modern hotels of the regional center.
Much attention has been paid to the development of domestic tourism and improvement of services in rural areas, as well as organization of additional hiking trails. Certain efforts have been taken on the development of ecotourism in Pakhtaobod and Ulugnor districts, opening of tourist destinations ‘Fishing’ in the fish farm of Ulugnor district, ‘Thermal Waters’ in Jalakuduk district, ‘Wellness Tourism’ in medicinal sands of Khodjabad and Shahrikhan districts.
Known for its beautiful nature, hospitable people, original cuisine and handicrafts, Andijan welcomes travelers from around the world.
QUALIFIED SPECIALISTS FOR TOURISM INDUSTRY
Year by year, Uzbekistan has been increasing its tourist potential, the role of the tourism sector in the economy. The qualified professionals – graduates of educational institutions of the republic – have been contributing to this process.
For example, the Tashkent Vocational College of Hotel Management and Service has been training specialists in hotel business and tourism since 2010. Currently, it provides education to nearly 1,000 boys and girls. They acquire bоth theory and practical skills. The Vocational Subjects Department provides teaching of the disciplines that are related to the organization of tourist and hotel services, restaurant business.
Students are offered to secure the theoretical knowledge and gain practical skills at classes in training and production workshops of tourism and hotel economny, catering, studios of national dishes, cooks, confectioners and bakers, hotel room laboratory. They are equipped with the latest equipment, furniture, training hardware, dummies and working models.
Information and resource center under the college provides facilities for self-education. It offers literature on socio-humanitarian and vocational disciplines, natural sciences, works of foreign and Uzbek writers. The IRC stock is constantly updated with specialized literature in Uzbek, Russian and English languages.
The college provides a profound learning of English language, including professional terminology, as knowledge of the English language is one of the key requirements for tourism sector staff.
Students master all the subtleties of their profession under the guidance of 42 teachers and 14 production masters. In addition to the professional knowledge and skills, teachers lay emphasis on teaching national and international tourism-related legislation.
“Compliance with the requirements of the legislation has a direct impact on the development of tourism and working conditions of travel agencies and hotels,” says the vocational disciplines teacher Vazira Umarova. “At management, marketing and tourism services classes we draw attention to profound study of the current tourism related legal instruments. During practical training, wh ere students learn drawing tours, creating or promoting their tourist products, they need to consider legislation.”
The college has established close cooperation with travel companies, hotels and large restaurants of the capital, thereby facilitating its graduates to find work by vocation. Most of them continue working in the companies, agencies and hotels, wh ere they had undergone practical training, under quadripartite agreements.
Education of highly qualified specialists for travel agencies is an important factor for the development of the tourism industry of the country.
(As part of the social order of the Oliy Majlis Public Fund for the Support of NGOs and Other Civil Society Institutions).
All Opportunities for Ecotourism
Boriy Alikhanov, Vice Speaker of the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis, Head of the Ecology Movement of Uzbekistan:
Ecotourism is directly linked to the sustainable development of the country, as promoted by the state policy in biodiversity conservation, rational use and reproduction of flora and fauna. Our country has been actively involved in international environmental cooperation, acceded to major international conventions on nature conservation, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, meeting the commitments related to protected areas.
Uzbekistan has a great potential for the development of eco-tourism. Natural and climatic peculiarities of the country provide much space for that: we possess a unique nature, a variety of scenic landscapes, and rich cultural heritage.
In recent years, the country has made a difficult step from traditional to ecological tourism, which implies an innovative system of completely different approaches, management and organization. It is featured by the opportunity to prevent a negative impact on the environment and encourage tour operators and tourists to contribute to its protection.
This kind of tourism is the only area in the tourism industry which is vitally concerned in preserving the natural environment and its individual components – nature monuments, many species of animals and plants. When ecotourism involves the local population, they are interested in using these resources for their economy. It also gives an opportunity to get closer to the virgin nature that has not experienced the anthropogenic impact, and helps to maintain intact ecosystems, natural monuments, contributing to environmental protection.
Missions in Priority
Abdulaziz Akkulov, head of department for intersectoral and regional coordination, State Committee for Tourism Development:
The Government of Uzbekistan carries out scaled initiatives on the development of tourism infrastructure of the country. Transport infrastructure has been improving. A high-speed passenger train now runs to Samarkand, Bukhara, Karshi, new hotels are being built, monuments of cultural heritage have been restored, and new tourist sites are being opened. Moreover, Uzbekistan ranks among the world’s safest countries for tourists. All these factors have a very positive effect on the development of the tourism industry.
For the coming years, Uzbekistan has identified specific plans to further stimulate business intitiatives in tourism sector, develop tourism infrastructure, and provide tourism agencies with additional privileges and benefits. All that, according to experts, would entail a significant growth in bоth inbound and domestic tourism.
Uzbekistan Has Much to Show
Stefan Priesner, UNDP Resident Representative in Uzbekistan:
Uzbekistan posseses a great potential for the development of various types of tourism, including ecotourism. There are Hissar and Western Tien Shan Mountains, home to snow leopards, the Sudoche Lake, wh ere many bird species nest, the amazing Nurota Reserve with its Red Book representatives of flora and fauna and historical monuments like the millennial tree Madjerume, which, according to legend, was planted by warriors of Alexander the Great.
Isn’t all this worth showing to foreign tourists?
Meanwhile, the tourism infrastructure requires solid investment, so the United Nations strongly supports Uzbekistan’s efforts in addressing these issues.
Combining Treatment with Sightseeing
Malika Nasyrova, representative of the Turkish Association of Medical Tourism in Uzbekistan:
Uzbekistan has been demonstrating promising prospects and conditions for the development of medical tourism. Normally, the main criteria the patients use when selecting clinics for treatment come to the level of development of medicine in the country, specialist proficiency, an economic factor, which implies a relatively low price for high quality services.
In this case, the sustainability of the region and the territorial accessibility are seen as important factors, since long distances and the associated transport shifts can create additional complexities for a sick person, thereby having a negative effect on his condition.
In this context, Uzbekistan, with its geographically central position in Central Asia as the intersection of major transport arteries, is favorably advantageous against some neighboring states. Linguistic and ethnic tolerance of the local population is an attractive factor, as well as climate, and the opportunity of combining treatment with visits to unique architectural and historical sights.
More people and travel agencies have been increasingly learning about us, getting acquainted with the services we offer. Specialized exhibitions in Tashkent help us to learn about the majority of tourism operators on the market of Uzbekistan. Our company has more than 10 years of background, and a representative office was opened in 2013. Since then, we have been seeing good dynamics. Crucially, we see the interest of the people who need our services.