Kazakh tourism industry poised for major expansion

Over several decades, tourism has been developing continuously and has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy. The sphere of tourism equalised and even surpassed oil exports, food trade and the automobile industry in terms of business operations.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the tourism share constituted 10 percent of the global GDP and 7 percent ($1.5 billion) of global exports. The number of international tourists grew by 4.6 percent and reached 1.2 billion visitors. The average annual increase in tourists in the world is 3-4 percent. The demand of China and India for tourism products is growing.

Such trends reveal new opportunities for the development of the world tourism industry, including in Kazakhstan (ranked 81st in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index of the 2017 World Economic Forum).

The world entered the era of new discoveries and innovative, scientific and technical solutions that change the nature of economic growth and the habitual way of life. In this regard, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced two modernisations:

Modernisation 3.0 aimed at diversifying the national economy, one of the main drivers of which is tourism;

Modernisation of national identity aimed at strengthening Kazakhstan’s identity and adapting it to the modern world.

Both modernisations directly affected the tourism development sector in Kazakhstan. On the instructions of the Prime Minister, tourism entered the so-called Olympic track of six industries that are the drivers of diversification of the national economy. The industry faces the task of increasing its share in the GDP structure to eight percent by 2025 and ensuring a percentage growth in inbound tourism to the country.

Such indicators require bold political decisions to remove administrative barriers to the development of the tourist business and facilitate the visa and immigration regime for foreign tourists, as well as develop the tourism infrastructure, diversify tourism offer and develop Kazakhstan’s tourism culture. Those were the tasks set by the President for tourism in his decree of Nov. 24, 2016 on elaborating a new concept for the development of the tourism industry until 2023.

The concept was adopted by the Kazakh Government June 27, 2017 and opened a new stage in the development of the tourism industry. The concept identifies six clusters reflecting the geographical diversity and ethno-cultural identity of Kazakhstan’s tourism offer:

  • “Astana – the heart of Eurasia” is a cluster, geographically located in the city of Astana, is a symbiosis of architectural thought. With the existing high-tech infrastructure, it is ready for the development of cultural, medical and business tourism.
  • “Almaty – Kazakhstan’s free cultural zone”– includes Almaty and part of the Almaty region with an infrastructure of alpine, scientific and educational tourism that is in accordance with international standards.
  • “Pearl of Altai”– includes the territories of the East Kazakhstan region and is the centre of ecological tourism in Kazakhstan.
  • “Revival of the Great Silk Road”– is located at the crossroads of the Great Silk Road in Kyzylorda, South Kazakhstan and Zhambyl region. It has a well-known world history of architecture, such as the monuments of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, the towns of Taraz, Turkestan and Otrar.
  • “The Caspian Gates”– are located in Mangistau, West Kazakhstan and Atyrau regions and have the potential to develop the infrastructure of coastal and resort-sanatorium tourism.
  • “Unity of nature and nomadic culture” is a cluster that includes Akmola, Karaganda and Pavlodar regions and is the centre of nomadic culture and diversity of the steppe.

Considering Kazakhstan’s rich tourism and recreational potential, the concept envisages the diversification of promising types of tourism – cultural-cognitive, ecological and ethnographic, event, children’s, youth, medical, camping, caravanning, trophy hunting , sacral and sport (trekking).

Within the modernisation of national identity, the President paid special attention to the issues of preserving Kazakhstan’s cultural identity and its own national code, which should make the country recognisable on the global tourism market.

In this regard, Kazakhstan will have a new tourism product –Kazakhstan’s Sacred Belt – a map of macro- and micro-sacral objects comprised of 600 sacred monuments, some of which we plan to include in the list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Cultural Heritage.

One of the elements of ethnographic tourism is ethno-auls (ethnic villages) created throughout Kazakhstan. They are seasonal in nature and work annually from May-September, which will enable Kazakhstan’s guests to touch the ancient traditions of Kazakhs – our music, craft, cuisine, sports games and rituals.

World practice has confirmed that trophy hunting tourism is an effective mechanism for attracting funds for wildlife conservation. It radically changes the attitude of the local population and local governmental bodies to the issues of preserving wild animals and their habitats.

Kazakhstan is exceptionally rich in wildlife for hunting. All of our efforts in trophy hunting tourism will be directed to its growth, preservation and development, from which the country will receive investments for the conservation of nature and development of the regions.

We assume that potential markets of foreign tourists to Kazakhstan will be Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, India and the developed world. In this regard, we are consistently moving towards the liberalisation of the visa and migration regime, a visa-free regime for foreign citizens applies to more than 60 countries and ADS memorandums were signed with China and Iran. In June, we launched a pilot regime until the end of the expo (Sept. 12), according to which 72 hours of visa-free transit is provided to Chinese citizens who transit via Kazakh airlines through international airports of Astana and Almaty to third countries.

Kazakhstan is thoroughly preparing to host foreign and domestic guests, strengthening existing institutions, developing tourism infrastructure and raising the quality standards of tourism services. One of the important steps is the creation of the Kazakh Tourism national tourist office to promote the country’s tourism industry in the national and international markets.

Welcome to Kazakhstan!


The author is the chairperson of the Tourism Industry Committee at Kazakh Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Get The Astana Times stories sent directly to you! Sign up via the website or subscribe to our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, YouTube and Tiktok!