GAITHERSBURG, MD – Kazakhstan launched a new official tourism website, Kazakhstan.travel, in June, with information in English, Kazakh and Russian on the country’s culture, history and geography as well as detailed information on destinations in each of the country’s oblasts or regions.
The website contains photos and descriptions of games, food, clothing and jewellery and other aspects of traditional Kazakh culture, as well as blurbs about modern Kazakh society and religion. The ethnic diversity of the country is highlighted in a gallery of snapshots of citizens of different ethnic backgrounds, including ethnic Tatars, Koreans, Ukrainians, Ingush and more. Site visitors are invited to click on the photos to learn more about each individual.
The site, a project of the Tourism Industry Department of the Ministry for Investments and Development, comes as Kazakhstan begins a major push to develop tourism in five clusters around the country, part of the Concept on Tourism to 2020 approved last year, and bring tourism as a share of gross domestic product from 0.3 percent to 4 percent.
Photos and maps add visual interest to the new site, and its phrasebook and useful information section are helpful resources. An air ticketing page links to Air Astana’s online booking system, but the hotel booking section is not yet populated and information on accommodation around some destinations is lacking.
Kazakhstan has a number of official or semi-official online presences promoting its tourism potential. The Kazakhstan Tourism Association, a nongovernmental association approved by the government, has a portal on the Oriental Express Central Asia website and also operates Kazakhstan’s Ecotourism Information Resource Centre, an online source of information about nature-based tourism in Kazakhstan. Visitkazakhstan.kz is also an “official tourism website of Kazakhstan.”
More and more, the Kazakh government is using online resources to develop its tourism industry, not only reach out to foreigners, but to engage and train locals involved in the industry. “Tourism is Everyone’s Business,” a Facebook group created with the support of the Tourism Industry Department, seeks to provide free training for citizens involved in tourism-related industries now or hoping to be, as well as serve as a platform for dialogue on improving the industry and attracting more guests, Chairman of the then-Tourism Industry Committee Marat Igali told The Astana Times in May. He said then that active work would be done to attract tourists through online marketing activities and platforms like Google Earth, Trip Advisor, Facebook and Twitter.
In June 2014, Kazakhstan initiated a one-year visa-free pilot programme for 10 countries identified as major investors. Before that move, the country had improved by five positions on the Competitiveness Index for Tourism from 2011-2013.