With an enormous wealth of Islamic sites, the nation is reaching out to the world at ITB Asia
Bahruz Hamzaev is Strategy Advisor to the State Committee for Tourism Development of Uzbekistan. We asked him how tourism has been progressing in past years in his nation.
Inbound tourism has been increasing exponentially. In 2016, we had 1.3 million tourists. For the end of this year, projections are for 6.3 million. Every year, the number of tourists coming to Uzbekistan is doubling. One of the main reasons for that is the easing of the visa process. By 1 January 2020, the number of visa-free countries will reach 86, including China. This is the biggest driver of tourist numbers in our country. More airlines are also flying to Uzbekistan.
WE WOULD LIKE TO INCREASE THE CAPACITY FOR TOURISM, DIVERSIFY, AND HAVE MORE TOURISTS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.
How are you looking to further increase tourism gures?
We would like to diversify. At the moment, the core audience is generally the baby-boomers. They stay longer, they stay in better hotels, and their expenditure is higher. However, tourism in Uzbekistan is seasonal, and we would like to change that, so we are targeting a younger audience, including millennials and solo travellers. Uzbekistan is the number five safest destination globally in the solo travel index. It has been one of the safest countries for the past ten years. So, we would like to increase the capacity for tourism, diversify, and have more tourists throughout the year.
How important are the Eastern and Southeast Asian markets for you?
They are equally as important as Europe. Uzbekistan is mainly a Muslim country, with world renowned Shrines in Silk Road places like Tashkent and Bukhara. Samarkand is home to dozens of magnificent tombs. Notable gures like the emperor Tamerlane, the astronomer Ulughbek and Kusam Ibn Abbas, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, who brought Islam to this land in the 7th Century, are all buried here. There is also the tomb of the prophet Daniel, or Daniyar as Uzbeks call him.
For this, people from Malaysia and Indonesia are increasingly attracted to our country. Added to this are the facts that we have a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and since the beginning of this year, there are regular flights from Jakarta, and we have the visa-free system for these travellers. Our idea is to attract more people for Haj “plus”, where people can prolong their journey with a visit to our sites. Many add a third destination after doing Mecca and Medina. Now, as we have a direct flight, this makes it interesting to pass by Uzbekistan. Another interesting fact is that Indonesia and Malaysia don’t have a winter, and Uzbekistan has four real seasons, with snow in winter and great ski resorts. Many of these people have never seen snow, so that’s an added plus.
How important is ITB Asia for reaching your potential clients?
It’s one of the shows that our government has listed as “not to be missed”. We consider the region very important as a potential market
New Tourist welcome centres in Tashkent
On 22 July, Bekabad and Tashkent districts of the Tashkent region on the territory of the “Oybek” and “Gisht-Kuprik” checkpoints opened two tourist information centres. The checkpoints are respectively on the borders the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Earlier, during the visit of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to the Tashkent region a number of tasks were set, one of which was the creation of tourist
information centres at these points. The purpose of tourist information centres is to provide foreign visitors with all the necessary information about the tourist potential of the country, accommodation facilities, popular destinations and domestic routes. Also, the centres provide tourists with handouts in the form of booklets, brochures and magazines about the regions of the Republic, as well as assistance in calling taxis and buying tourist SIM cards.
Photo: Bahruz Hamzaev, Strategy Advisor to the State Committee for Tourism Development, Uzbekistan