Atameken discusses prospects of affordable tourism

ASTANA – Enjoyable vacations are respites appreciated by all. To accommodate travelers, priorities of developing tourism infrastructure needs to consider the viewpoints of local industry associations, residents and entrepreneurs, and government projects must facilitate affordable, cost-effective and comfortable getaways, said Chair of Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs Timur Kulibayev.

Photo credits: aboutkazakhstan.com.

Hiking in Almaty. Photo credit: aboutkazakhstan.com.

He recently discussed the issues surrounding domestic and inbound tourism, as well as support for tourism businesses, with Vice Minister of Culture and Sports Erlan Kozhagapanov and CEO of Kazakh Tourism Rashid Kuzembayev.

“The government allocates huge funds for improving infrastructure and promoting the country’s brand. The task is to ensure that funds are allocated efficiently and the ultimate goal is to ensure citizens can get active leisure and affordable vacations,” said Kulibayev.

The state budget has allocated 140 billion tenge (US$406.8 million) in the coming years for infrastructure development.

“It is essential to consider the infrastructure development in a complex. Infrastructure has to be modernised and expanded everywhere: roads, sewerage, heating systems and the number of hotels, leisure centres and sanatoria and clinics have to match every taste and budget. The availability of modern treatment facilities plays a pivotal role. The influx of tourists into Burabai, for example, may undermine the region’s environment,” he added.

Kulibayev also called on government representatives to consider residents’ and entrepreneurs’ opinions in creating tourist maps. The map recently presented by Minister of Culture and Sports Arystanbek Mukhamediuly includes 62 tourist destinations and facilities, 46 active and 16 new. The criteria for choosing the locations were potential tourist growth and the objects’ uniqueness, as well as their historical and cultural significance.

“The vacations have to be comfortable and affordable; it is important to consider where people can have a rest with children. Developing cost-effective tourism both for longer holidays and weekend holidays are needed,” he said.

Locals typically know the best spots for a rest and those which need improved infrastructure, he noted.

“Another important aspect is to develop year-round leisure opportunities for tourists. There is also a need to develop cultural, pilgrimage adventures and eco-tourism at the sacred places of Kazakh cultural heritage. Ulytau, Turkestan and Bayanaul are unique places where academics, military commanders and other honoured Kazakh figures come from,” he added.

The mechanism for developing mass tourism is creating an open sky.

“Developing domestic and inbound tourism requires increasing flight frequencies of low-cost carriers. Air Astana, for instance, provides high-level service but at a very high price. It is necessary to improve citizens’ mobility. Leisure and cultural amenities have to be accessible regardless of income size, residence place and social status,” said Kulibayev.

In addition, plans to ease the visa policy by introducing electronic visas should minimise communication with officials and potential corruption.

Kulibayev noted the mechanisms will substantially increase the country’s cash flow and tourism development.

“Kazakhstan’s tourism potential, the geographical position and cultural heritage, have to be utilised to the full,” he said.