Cost, travel logistics remain barriers to maritime cruise popularity in Kazakhstan

ASTANA – Maritime cruises have never been as popular in Kazakhstan, a landlocked nation, as they have in other more ocean-accessible countries. But some domestic travel officials hope that will change.

“The cost of a Vietnam-Malaysia cruise for 10 days will cost 3,900 euros (US$4,409) per person. This is a high cost for local consumers and most Kazakhs often choose a more acceptable and popular form of recreation,” said Travel Club Kazakhstan partner Askar Tuleyev, as reported by Kapital.kz.

Cruises are not the most inexpensive pleasure for locals. Prices depend on foreign currency rates and Kazakhstan’s location – very far from any open sea or ocean.

“In Kazakhstan, cruises are not very popular because they are expensive. In addition to the cost of the cruise itself, you need to pay for the flight. It is beneficial for Kazakh travel agencies, but it seems that our clients are not ready for this yet,” he noted.

An average family can vacation in Turkey beginning at approximately $3,000, he said. Cruise prices start at $4,000 per person.

“This is a specific product that needs to be promoted. The fall of the tenge rate directly affects the increase in the cost of tours, as they are bought in dollars or euros. I do not think that in the next two or three years there will be a rush on cruise travel. It is easy to enter into an agreement with the company; it will take about a week. We can organise a cruise and advise good companies, but we will not develop this particular direction, because it will not pay off. The funds invested in the advertising should pay off,” he added.

China, Dubai, Egypt, Southeast Asia and Turkey, as well as countries in Europe and the U.S., are still the most popular destinations for Kazakh tourists.

“If everything goes well with the economy, the market of cruise tours will develop, because people will get bored with beach rest and they will switch to other forms of tourism. This is actually an interesting product. You can see several countries in one trip,” said Tuleyev.

Premium Travel Director Evgeniya Khokhlenko said her company has seen annual sales growth.

“Many travel companies from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan buy cruises for their clients from our company. If 15 years ago cruise companies started selling 10 cabins a year, now sales go every day. We have contracts with cruise companies from around the world. We carefully select them. Not all companies approach the Kazakhstan market and the Asian market in general,” she said.

Cruises offer year-round vacations to endless destinations and most tourists board for seven-12 days. In summer, the most popular region is the Mediterranean Sea; in winter – Asia, Australia and the Caribbean. Ships change their main regions based on seasonality and there is always a choice of location.

“Kazakhs prefer standard rest instead of a cruise for several reasons. One of the main ones is fear of the open sea – our people do not feel comfortable in such conditions. Also, there is no such clarity and relaxation, so it is not suitable for everyone,” said Zhetisu Travel owner Yelena Bekboeva.

“As for the difference in price between all-inclusive and a cruise, I would not compare them at all. This is a rest for different needs. They can be chosen by the same people, but at different periods of life,” she added.