AKTAU – With its diverse nature and untouched landscapes, Kazakhstan is home to some of the world’s best travel treasures that still largely remain unseen by tourists, say participants of the Kazakhstan Tourism Development Forum that took place in Aktau on Sept. 15.
According to Kairat Sadvakassov, the Deputy Chairman of the Kazakh Tourism National Company, ecotourism and cultural heritage tourism are the most attractive forms of tourism that Kazakhstan can offer.
“We have 14 national parks and we offer a multitude of trails, we offer a lot of untouched nature, and also very authentic stays with locals in guest houses. One of the examples is Kolsai lake in the mountains 300 kilometers away from Almaty. That’s a pristine area where people, especially foreigners, can enjoy real wild nature while also being exposed to authentic true Kazakh hospitality,” said Sadvakassov.
In regard to cultural heritage tourism, Sadvakassov advised to visit Turkistan which is a “pearl of the Silk Road.” According to him, European visitors are increasingly choosing ancient, authentic tourist sites.
“People from Europe are not only interested in the Silk Road as a trade route, but they are also keen to explore the ancient architecture and archaeological sites that are unveiling the civilization that had a very unique blend of nomadic and settled culture as well,” he said.
Kazakhstan has not yet fully realized its tourism potential but it is important to familiarise visitors with the country’s diverse tourism landscape, according to Sadvakassov.
“I will say we have only reached 50% of the country’s potential. However, the Almaty Region is by far the most developed right now. To prevent the negative impacts of over-tourism on the environment, we should focus on redirecting those large numbers of tourists to other destinations. That’s why we’re here today in Mangystau to draw the attention of locals and international tourists to other areas of Kazakhstan – less developed and thus less occupied and less traveled,” said Sadvakassov.
European Union (EU) Ambassador to Kazakhstan Kestutis Jankauskas was among several participants of the forum that urged people who had not yet visited Kazakhstan to do so.
“Central Asia and Kazakhstan are relatively unknown destinations, but Europeans are looking for interesting places to visit. And why not [Kazakhstan]? This is a safe and stable country. It is a country which can offer a variety of interests for tourists: mountains, deserts, seas and rich culture,” said Jankauskas.
A strategy focusing on growing infrastructure will position Kazakhstan as an even more attractive destination for European tourists, according to Jankauskas.
“In order to achieve this, we need simple things. We need more direct flights and increased competition from the airlines. We need infrastructure here in place: international car rental companies, decent facilities, sanitary facilities, more online information,” said Jankauskas.
Kanan Guluzade, head of media and public relations at Azerbaijan State Tourism Agency said the tourism development between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan is on course and new opportunities are emerging.
“There are many joint projects based on the Silk Road concept,” said Guluzade. “Kazakh tourists primarily prefer urban tourism and health tourism in Azerbaijan particularly in areas such as mud baths and airborne treatments, also known as naphtalin. Azeri tourists are very fond of visiting Kazakhstan as well. There are direct air connections between three cities of Kazakhstan and Baku, which makes travel very easy.”
The process of bilateral tourism development is accelerating in the sphere of mountain tourism, skiing, golf tourism, according to Guluzade. Those are spheres that offer a lot of potential.