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ASTANA – When thinking of Kazakhstan, some foreigners might recall the movie “Borat,” or imagine a vast steppe where traditional tents still dot the landscape. However, Kazakhstan is not yet widely known as a potential tourist paradise, which it truly is.
Kazakhstan’s nature is diverse and rich, encompassing deserts, canyons, seas, rivers, lakes, and notably, the Tian-Shan mountains. These mountains are home to the former capital and the renowned Shymbulak Ski Resort. Shymbulak is a winter wonderland that hides in the mountain valleys near Almaty, deserving of worldwide recognition as a tourist destination.
Sustainability and a healthy lifestyle are among the major trends in global society, and Shymbulak aligns perfectly with both. It provides excellent skiing opportunities and the benefit of clean, fresh air. Remarkably, it stands out as one of the few mountain resorts in Asia, boasting the longest skiing season and some of the highest ski tracks in the world, starting at 3,200 meters above sea level. These tracks attracted nearly 1 million visitors in the 2021-2022 season, underscoring Shymbulak’s appeal as a world-class mountain resort.
The Shymbulak resort has been recognized by the Guardian as one of the best places for skiing, not least because of the magnificent views over the glacier and lack of queues.
However, despite the vast potential of the ski resort, it remains mostly unknown to people outside of Kazakhstan, which limits its ability to attract tourists, develop its economy, and raise the country’s popularity.
There is also a need to invest in infrastructure and conduct marketing and advertising to attract visitors from afar. Situated far from European countries and even the most populated regions of Russia, the resort faces the challenge of expensive travel costs for potential visitors.
Understanding these issues, it becomes evident that Shymbulak, a hidden gem in the heart of Eurasia, needs strategic development. A crucial step towards this goal is launching a comprehensive media campaign to elevate Shymbulak’s profile among both local tourists and the international skiing community. Inviting celebrities for skiing and relaxation at the resort, or partnering with the Red Bull team for exciting stunts captured on GoPro, could be effective strategies. These initiatives could significantly enhance Shymbulak’s global recognition and popularity, transforming it into a sought-after destination for ski enthusiasts worldwide.
While Shymbulak Ski Resort already boasts a cable car, restaurants, and cafeterias, and is conveniently located just a 15-minute bus ride from the city of Almaty, further investment in infrastructure is essential. Enhancing and ensuring the safety of ski slopes, improving hospitality services, and providing amenities for guest comfort are critical for encouraging repeat visits.
Moreover, Shymbulak’s natural beauty is a significant asset. Beyond the skiing season, the resort transforms into a lush green paradise, ideal for hiking, climbing, and picnics with stunning views of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city. Recognizing this, the Shymbulak administration should consider offering services during the off-skiing season and promote the resort as a year-round destination. This approach not only highlights the beauty of Kazakhstan’s nature but also maximizes the resort’s potential, attracting visitors throughout the year.
The three steps above would certainly require time and effort to be completed, but the results would positively impact the country. Shymbulak could transform into a world-class skiing resort and a year-round mountain resort, which would bring an inflow of investment to Kazakhstan’s economy, create additional employment, incentivise entrepreneurs, and promote Kazakhstan’s positive reputation in the world.
Shymbulak is a true hidden gem in the heart of Kazakhstan, that only needs a bit of polishing to reveal its full splendor to the world. By showcasing its breathtaking natural beauty and the warm hospitality of the Kazakh people, it has the potential to captivate hearts and minds globally. This development could significantly boost foreign tourism, drawing visitors eager to explore the country’s stunning landscapes and experience its rich culture.
The author is Dauren Bokeikhanov, a graduate student of the Nazarbayev University 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.