NUR-SULTAN – The government has successfully dealt with propping up the tourism industry because of the pandemic in 2020, the Minister of Culture and Sports Aktoty Raimkulova concluded in the ministry’s statement on Jan. 18.
Raimkulova shared the challenges that the tourism sector has faced and the measures introduced to overcome them.
A state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic was announced in Kazakhstan on Mar. 16, 2020. With the closing of the borders and air transportation brought to a halt in many countries, tourists from around the world, including Kazakhstan, have been left stranded abroad. A system to guarantee citizens’ rights in the field of outbound tourism allowed 5,913 Kazakh citizens to return to their homes within a week. It is important to note that the used funds were accumulated through the contributions of tour operators, says Raimkulova.
Another challenge related to the difficulties that the tourism industry faced is that the companies needed to pay taxes, pay their employees and maintain their offices. As part of its anti-crisis measures, the Kazakh government exempted companies from taxes, provided soft loans, as well as deferrals for existing loans.
Also, in order to support the personnel of travel companies, the government paid social benefits equal to the minimum wage during the two months period, she added.
With the stabilization of the epidemiological situation in the country, Kazakh authorities have developed additional measures to restore the tourism industry. The country resumed intercity air and railway communications, bus transportation; steadily reopened air services to popular world resort destinations.
In order to reopen resorts in Kazakhstan, tourist facilities have developed algorithms for safe operation, added Raimkulova.
Despite the tightening budget, the Majilis (a lower house of parliament) deputies and the government supported many new measures in the tourism industry and approved expenditures worth 163 billion tenge ($388 million US dollars) through 2025.
“The outcomes of 2020 shows that the government has successfully dealt with supporting the tourism industry. It is essential to highlight the tourism industry’s support and understanding. They adhered to the government’s regulations and restrictions to prevent the spread of infections at their facilities,” says Raimkulova.
In order to quickly restore the industry and increase its investment potential in the long term until 2025, additional measures were developed, the Chairman of the Tourism Industry Committee Dastan Ryspekov added.
These measures include the reimbursement of private business’ costs in the tourist facilities and roadside service facilities construction, up to 10 percent of the initial investment amount; 25 percent cost reimbursement of purchasing ski equipment and tourist class vehicles; subsidizing tour operators’ costs for each foreign tourist amounting to 15,000 tenge ($36 US dollars); 100 percent reimbursement of the carriage charge for children on domestic air routes; subsidizing the costs of maintaining sanitary facilities amounting 83,300 tenge ($199 US dollars).
According to Ryspekov, the implementation of these measures will attract additional revenue worth 180 billion tenge ($429 million US dollars) to the economy of Kazakhstan, facilitate more than 170 thousand jobs and implement 1000 projects.
It is worth mentioning that the pandemic period has strengthened the cooperation within the tourism industry, the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs (NCE) with Kazakh Tourism National Company, added Raimkulova.
The Ministry conducted webinars and discussions, developed new approaches and organized research expeditions to support the tourism sector’s recovery.