Editor’s note: The Astana Times has introduced a new section on the website that features articles by our readers. As a platform that values diverse perspectives and meaningful conversations, we believe that this new section will serve as a space for our readers to share their thoughts and insights on various topics that matter to them and the AT audience.
Kazakhstan is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by curious travelers. This vast and diverse country in Central Asia boasts a rich cultural heritage, natural wonders, and unparalleled experiences. Despite its undeniable charm, Kazakhstan still needs to make a name for itself as a top travel destination. The country holds major travel potential, but also faces policy challenges, which require solutions to unlock its appeal to the world.
According to the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism Development Index, Kazakhstan ranks 66th out of 117 countries. While the country saw an increase in tourists in the past few years, with 10.7 million visitors in 2019, the pandemic significantly reduced visitors to just 3.5 million in 2020. However, by September 2022, the numbers had bounced back to 8.3 million.
The travel industry in Kazakhstan has faced several policy challenges that have hindered its growth over the years. One significant issue is the country’s limited international marketing efforts, which don’t match its potential. Kazakhstan needs a solid global marketing campaign to reach out to tourists worldwide.
Another obstacle to attracting tourists is the complex visa requirements, making the process cumbersome. Simplifying and streamlining the visa process is essential to encourage visits.
While significant progress has been made in infrastructure, there is still room for improvement, particularly in transportation, accommodation, and amenities, especially in less-traveled regions. Addressing these concerns and enhancing the overall visitor experience will make Kazakhstan a top tourist destination.
A comprehensive strategy must be implemented to unlock the potential of the industry. Specific measures can be taken to achieve this goal.
Active international marketing
It is necessary for Kazakhstan to invest in comprehensive global marketing campaigns that showcase its natural beauty, rich culture, and historical sites. This may include working in collaboration with travel agencies, airlines, and influencers to increase its global visibility. The government agencies can partner with travel influencers to document their journeys across the country, highlighting diverse landscapes, local cuisine, and unique cultural experiences. In addition, the government can organize international media tours to promote Kazakhstan’s tourism industry.
Simplified visa processes
Kazakhstan can simplify visa procedures, offer visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry, and extend e-visa options to make the country more accessible to tourists. The government can learn from other countries, such as India and Türkiye, which have successfully implemented electronic visa systems, streamlining the application process. Moreover, Kazakhstan can establish visa-free agreements with countries that are potential tourist markets.
Investing in transportation networks, hotels, and tourist facilities is crucial to ensure visitors have a comfortable and memorable experience. Kazakhstan can incentivize private investment in tourism-related infrastructure by offering investors tax breaks and other financial incentives. The government can also work with private investors to develop new tourist destinations and attractions.
Kazakhstan can promote sustainable tourism practices, such as eco-friendly accommodations and responsible tour operators, to help preserve its pristine natural landscapes and cultural heritage. Through a certification program, the government can establish guidelines and certifications. The government can also educate tourists on sustainable practices and encourage them to be responsible travelers.
Cultural exchange programs
Kazakhstan can promote cultural exchange programs to facilitate a deeper understanding of its diverse ethnic groups, traditions, and history. Encouraging local communities to participate in tourism can create a more authentic experience for travelers. The government can partner with cultural organizations to organize festivals, workshops, and exhibitions that showcase Kazakhstan’s cultural heritage. It is also necessary to incentivize tour operators who promote cultural exchange programs.
Kazakhstan can forge partnerships with neighboring countries to promote multi-destination travel in Central Asia. This can lead to more extensive itineraries and increased tourism to the entire region. Kazakhstan can collaborate with neighboring countries – the Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan – to create joint tour packages allowing travelers to explore the Silk Road region. The officials can also work with neighboring countries to develop cross-border infrastructure and improve the transportation network between countries.
Kazakhstan has a lot to offer for adventurers, nature lovers, and cultural enthusiasts. The country could become a top travel destination with proper planning and investment. As tourism gradually returns after the pandemic, Kazakhstan can showcase its breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cultural traditions, and hospitable locals. This is a great chance for Kazakhstan to take advantage of its travel industry and establish a new era in this sphere.
The author is Nurlan Ismailov, the Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Public Policy.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Astana Times.