Grassroots Programme Aims to Improve Tourism Standards, Development

ASTANA – Laura Galiyeva of Kazunion International Tour Operator and her partners have launched a grassroots initiative to provide tourism training and information in regions of Kazakhstan where tourism has stagnated.

“Tourism is developing in Astana and Almaty, she said, but the smaller cities haven’t seen much growth in tourism and wouldn’t be prepared for it in any case. “We decided to get people together to come up with business ideas, first of all, and to understand and to make people in smaller regions and smaller cities realise that tourism starts not from bringing people from one place to another. Instead, you should develop businesses within your location. You should create jobs for people and introduce services there.”

Through the group’s Facebook page, “Tourism is Everybody’s Business,” they have so far facilitated training sessions in Pavlodar and Borovoye.

The burgeoning training programme came about by chance. Because of their “Tourism is Everybody’s Business” Facebook initiative, Galiyeva was invited to the Sarkylmas Sayakhat tourism exhibition in Pavlodar on Aug. 23. At the exhibition, representatives of each region gave presentations on their regions’ potential and current development. Galiyeva spoke about their movement and their idea of broadening involvement in tourism and increasing awareness of tourism development.

“When we were in Pavlodar, women from a spa in Borovoye approached me and said ‘Please come to Borovoye, because we need this. We can provide you with a room, we can provide you with a hall to hold your programme.’ We went there in our own cars, we spent our own money to do this,” Galiyeva said. Realising that there was a market for service training in Kazakhstan’s regions, Galiyeva and her partners have scrambled to put together training packages. The training sessions focus on hotel and other service staff, teaching staff how to speak to guests, what guests’ needs are likely to be, what the standards of service are in other parts of the world.

“People in the regions haven’t seen [good service] … so they are trying to give an understanding of it, to explain what to do, not to do, just to help a little bit,” said Nikolay Li, a business training organiser with Knowledge Is Power, who spoke at the group’s training session in Borovoye.

Galiyeva’s main problem at the moment is finding qualified speakers and trainers to conduct the training sessions. The demand is there and the group has been asked to conduct trainings in Taraz and Aktobe in the future.

Galiyeva has a vision for Kazakhstan’s tourism future. “We want all of the regions to have a unique product, something attractive to people. And we want people working in the service industry to serve visitors gracefully, so people come and when they leave they say this is a great region, the service is well developed, it’s great.”

But, she said, the country isn’t there yet. “People are talking about systematic changes, about building major resorts, but we are not yet ready for that. We are developing and we want with our movement to attract as many people as we can and promote better development … our small businesses are not yet ready and we need to move gradually, step by step.”

One step should be more effective marketing, according to Li. “People don’t know what to say, how to say it or who to say it to,” about their tourism potential, he said. And Galiyeva said the country has not yet decided what it it wants to be—an ecotourism destination or something else.

While at the higher levels a national marketing and branding strategy may be being worked out, Galiyeva and her partners will be working from the bottom up, trying to improve service and trying to unite Kazakhstan’s tourism industry.

“Kazakhstan is competitive and the tourism sphere is competitive,” Galiyeva said. “But the point of this movement is to develop tourism in general. I want the whole of the tourism community to develop.”

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