Almaty region national parks undergo general improvements, new routes to be added

ASTANA – A new road map is to be developed, while some old ones will be revised and new routes will be added for tourists in national parks’ in the Almaty region, said Ministry of Agriculture forestry and wildlife department acting chairperson Marlen Ainabekov during the March 2 meeting regarding the region’s national parks organised at the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of Kazakhstan (NCE).

Charyn Canyon.

Charyn Canyon.

“We are accepting applications now. I think by the end of 2017 we will have all those routes in the road map and will conduct ecological examination,” he said, according to abctv.kz.

The NCE pledged to take an active role in the process. Chamber services department deputy director Karlygash Altayeva stressed not only the interests of parks, but also the demand of the tourist market must be considered. Ainabekov, however, argued strongly that the main goal was not business, but preservation of the national parks.

“This issue must be addressed very carefully,” he said. “There is such a well-known expression as ‘Do no harm,’ so let’s use this point of view. We are ready for cooperation, but only according to the requirements of the environmental legislation,” he added.

The tourism sector has made numerous inquiries. Almaty tour company’s AlmatyCityTour and VDA representative Anatoly Savichev, for instance, believes guides and drivers accompanying tour groups need to be freed from paying the eco-collection. According to the current tax legislation, a mandatory ecological fee of 0.1 monthly calculation index (MCI) is collected at the entrances to the specially-protected natural territories.

“These people are at work, but each time accompanying tour groups, they have to pay a fee. This entails a small, but still increasing total cost of the trip. Is it possible to settle this issue somehow? Maybe they can make a discount or a reduced tariff for them?” Savichev asked Ministry of Agriculture representatives.

Altayeva noted the question has been addressed previously and is under consideration.

Savichev also spoke to the issue of tourist security in the parks where there are no specially-designated trails for horses.

“Tourists on horseback use the same trails and their horses’ hoofs are destroying the roots of conifer trees and luckily these trees are not falling on people,” he said.

Other issues such as the lack of indicators and signs at the Charyn Canyon and prices for snacks at the parks have been also addressed. While management took note of all the concerns, the main issue is the road to the parks.

Altayeva noted the government allots most of the funds from the national budget for road repair and construction, as regional and municipal budgets don’t cover building such roads. The Ministry of Agriculture, jointly with Deputy Prime Minister Askar Mamin, held a meeting where the topic has been flagged and such budgets will be reviewed and stipulated by regional and municipal authorities, she added.

In spite of all the areas for improvement, official statistics indicate an annual increase in the number of visitors. There are currently 12 national parks in the country, five of which are in the Almaty region: Altyn Emel (4,330 visitors in 2014, 4,098 in 2015 and 5,808 in 2016); Ile Alatau (114,665 in 2014, 117,005 in 2015 and 117,571 in 2016); Kolsai Lakes (15,899 in 2014, 18,125 in 2015, and 22,092 in 2016); Charyn Canyon (4,676 in 2014, 8,000 in 2015 and 9,603 in 2016) and Zhongar Alatau (375 in 2014, 470 in 2015 and 1,005 in 2016).