ASTANA – With the Kazakh tourism industry surpassing pre-pandemic levels last year, the Kazakh government is devising new strategies to enhance the country’s substantial tourism potential, reported the Prime Minister’s press service.
Last year, the number of domestic tourists grew 25% to 8.6 million, which is almost two million above the pre-pandemic level, said Kazakh Minister of Culture and Sports Askhat Oralov at a June 19 government meeting.
Tourist accommodations earned 183 billion tenge ($408.3 million) last year, which is 68% more than in 2021. Kazakhstan witnessed high tax revenues from tourism activities that stood at 390 billion tenge ($870.1 million).
Foreign tourists are increasingly choosing Kazakhstan as a travel destination. Last year, the country attracted around one million foreign visitors in 2022, and the government expects this figure to increase to 1.4 million this year.
Oralov noted that 28 projects worth 27 billion tenge ($60.2 million) were commissioned last year, including the construction of engineering communications in the Balkhash resort area, the construction of a road to the beach in the city of Aktau, and the launch of Usharal and Urzhar airports, which significantly expanded air transportation capacity.
Eighty-three projects worth 439.3 billion tenge ($980.1 million) are underway to develop tourism infrastructure.
More than 360 investment projects worth over 420 billion tenge ($937.1 million) have been launched since 2019. This year, 115 projects valued at 288 billion tenge ($642.6 million) are being implemented with the creation of 2,000 jobs.
Speaking about new measures, Oralov said Kazakhstan introduced seven state support measures last year to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and business.
One is the Kids Go Free program, which allowed 1,600 children from nearly 800 families to travel around the country for free. At least 2,800 children are expected to have this opportunity this year.
The work is underway to introduce a tourist cashback, which provides for subsidizing tourists’ expenses up to 20% of the cost of the tour during the off-season.
The Ministry of Culture and Sports is also engaged in digitizing a unified register of tour guides to encourage them to constantly improve their skills and the quality of services provided. It plans to create the i-Tourist information contact center to address problems that tourists face.
According to Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov, the introduction of the tax-free system for international visitors and the expansion of the list of countries eligible for visa-free travel have also played a crucial role in providing a substantial boost to this progress.
“Globally, tourism is a very promising and profitable sector of the economy, which shows constant dynamic growth. In general, we see a growing interest in Kazakhstan’s tourist sites,” noted Smailov.
More tourists prefer to rest in glamping sites, which refers to a form of outdoor accommodation that provides a comfortable camping experience. There are 38 glamping sites in eight regions of the country, according to Oralov.
The development of visitor centers also drives tourism, serving as a first stop and rest point for tourists. In the past two years, 11 visitor centers have been built in Kazakhstan, including six built by private investors.
Kazakhstan set a goal to enter the top 50 of the Travel and Tourism Development Index by 2029. Kazakhstan’s latest ranking in the index, developed by the World Economic Forum, stood at 66th position.
Smailov instructed to accelerate the repair and construction of roads to the main tourist locations, bring engineering infrastructure to tourist facilities in due time, and ensure the proper sanitary condition and improvement of resort areas.
The quality of services, however, needs to be improved. Smailov said since the beginning of the tourist season, the government agencies have received more than 500 official complaints, particularly concerning high hotel prices and expensive domestic ticket fares.
“Such aspects have a negative impact on the country’s image, so government agencies and businesses need to quickly resolve these problems,” he said.