Kazakh Tourism Underdeveloped, Parliament Says

ASTANA – Despite the huge potential, tourism in Kazakhstan is not developing properly. That was the inference of the governmental hour on June 16 in the Mazhilis, the lower chamber of the Kazakh Parliament, chaired by its vice-speaker, Dariga Nazarbayeva.

In his performance report, Minister of Industry and New Technologies Asset Issekeshev reminded that in the concept frames for tourism development until 2020, the share of tourism in the GDP is to be brought up to more than 4 percent. Private investment in the industry is to be up to $4 billion with the creation of up to 300,000 jobs.

In general, the concept provides for the development of tourism clusters in Astana, Almaty and East, South and West Kazakhstan. Astana and Almaty are positioned as business tourism centres, with Almaty also a centre of international mountaineering. A centre of ecotourism is planned within the east cluster, cultural tourism is to be developed in the south and cultural and beach tourism in the west. National projects are also slated within these clusters, such as the ski resorts South Kaskelen and Kok Zhailau in Almaty, Bukhtarma and Katon-Karagai  within the east, Kenderli in the west and Borovoe near Astana.

Development of the Borovoe resort zone was a special focus. Parliament member Aldan Smaiyl resented the over-polluted Borovoe Lake, adding not without sarcasm, that if Kazakh officials chose to take a holiday at home, rather than along the French or Spanish coasts, the nation’s tourism might be more developed and popular.

“If they were vacationing in the Borovoe resort, the same-name lake would have been cleaned long before. We go to Okzhetpes (resort), but swimming in the lake is impossible there,” he complained.

In response, Vice-Minister of Environment and Water Resources Yerlan Nyssanbayev said that more than $1 trillion tenge (US$5.5 billion) is to be shortly budgeted for cleaning up 18 lakes, including Borovoe Lake.

“Not only dirty lakes discourage the people in Kazakhstan from vacationing at home, but also overpriced sanatoria and hotel rooms,” said another member of the Mazhilis, Mukhtar Tinikeyev. As a result, it is more profitable to vacation in Turkey on the all-inclusive system.

Issekeshev also reported on the plans to make Borovoe a venue for festivals and rallies throughout the year. Fifty tourist products have been developed under the plan, such as winter and autumn sports, family sports and health programmes. This format of tourism development is to be applied in other regions as well. Vacationing at a 50 percent corporate expense will also be practiced.

Members of parliament have touted the need to bring down Kazakh airline fares to make domestic tourism more attractive and to develop small aircraft.

Another problem spot in domestic tourism that the members of parliament have pointed to is the insufficiently-developed service industry, its shortage of professionals, poor condition of the buildings and facilities and difficulty of accessing resort areas and historical sites.

Taking into account these shortcomings, Deputy Seitsultan Aimbetov cited issues like the lack of proper control, consistent and coordinated actions between the government and local executive bodies, which greatly damage the economy, and the society at large. To it, member of parliament Tursunbek Omurzakov added that despite the natural opportunities of Kazakhstan, tourism is developing very slowly. There is no mechanism to monitor the quality of tourist services, no qualification requirements in this sphere, no classification of hotels and no tax incentives for the tourism industry.

Nazarbayeva inferred that, despite the allocated funds, the tourism industry in Kazakhstan remains underdeveloped and this is largely attributed to poor administration of the tourist industry.