70 per cent of Kazakhstanis prefer to relax abroad rather than go to domestic health resorts. This is cheaper, more comfortable and affordable.
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The government of Kazakhstan expects the tourism to national GDP ratio will be 8 per cent by 2025. Now it is as little as 1 per cent.
The country offers a visa-free entry for the nationals of 55 states, and according to official data 8.5 million people visited the country last year. However, not all of them are regular tourists.
“The people who arrive at Kazakhstan come here mainly to earn money. There are very few tourists. We cannot call everyone a tourist. 1.2 million people indicated business or professional activity as the reason for entry, and over 6.5 million people indicated personal reasons. Only 81,635 foreigners checked the “tourism” box,” said professor of geography Adai Sekenov.
According to him, digitalisation programmes are not duly developed in Kazakhstan, so there are no real numbers of incoming tourists. State companies manipulate the data to show their effectiveness.
According to the accounts committee of Kazakhstan, over 100 million tenges have been inefficiently spent by the Industry and Tourism Committee for the development of accounting policies, presentation of projects, forums, conferences.
However, the country has many historical and beautiful places, which could become tourist centres. The state attracts investors, builds the infrastructure and new hotels, which would be working all year round. But tourists complain about bad roads, inflated prices of food and hotel rooms.
Monopolists in tourism
According to Turistik Kamkor Corporate Fund, 70 per cent of Kazakhstanis prefer to repose abroad. No wonder domestic tourism is underdeveloped. Having a rest in the resort village of Borovoye in northern Kazakhstan is more expensive than in Turkey.
Seven-day stay in a five-star Turkish hotel in the all-inclusive system costs 250-300 thousand tenges (650-780 dollars). Prices for a week-long stay in Borovoye in an ordinary hotel, with breakfast included, start from 310 thousand tenge (806 dollars).
In Uzbekistan, ten days in a health resort will cost about 120 thousand tenges (312 dollars) in average, in Kazakhstan 150 thousand tenges and more (390 dollars).
Hotels in recreational areas are unaffordable to the majority of people, so people rent houses and temporary houses with horrible conditions. And the natives of Borovoye have turned into monopolists in tourism.
Zhanlai Kansitova has come to Borovoye from Turkestan region. An ordinary teacher has been saving money for rest with her family for a few months:
“I love the nature of Borovoye if not for its service. I have come here with children and we could hardly find a temporary house for accommodation. The bed is dirty, the dishes are dirty. There’s no water inside the house, so we have to bring water in bottles from the standpipe.”
The Kazakh “Switzerland”, the Borovoye resort, makes tourists unhappily surprised. The infrastructure is underdeveloped, the nature is dirty.
Borovoye is now a capital of fences: everything is fenced off, one cannot access anything free of charge. The beach that has been free of charge for life is now paid. The president of Kazakhstan had spoken about the need to create civilised conditions for people to relax.
“Roads will be good”
Kazakhstan ranks 108th out of 138 by the quality of motor roads in the World Economic Forum ranking. Billions are spent, yet the authorities have failed both to reach good quality and to improve accident record. Roads to historical places, to recreational areas are broken so much that tourists just don’t want to visit.
According to the chairman of the board of KazAvtoZhol, Ulan Alipov, this year the country shifts from expensive capital projects to more cost-effective method of road rehabilitation.
“We’ve taken a loan from Eximbank. Before that, we had prepared design estimates and soon we are going to start work. We will complete the works in two years, the roads will be good. We will improve 90 per cent of local network,” Alipov said.
Aleksandr and Tatiana Buzynnikovs have come to Kazakhstan for the first time. The residents of Omsk are stoked on nature and water. They have rented a very expensive hotel room – 82 thousand tenges (213 dollars) per day:
“Borovoye is deemed the most popular resort in CIS among Russian tourists. We wanted to come a long time ago and this year we bought air tickets in advance. We’ve booked the hotel two weeks in advance, it’s expensive, but it offers all conditions. We could go to Dubai for ten days with this money, but everything is artificial there. In Borovoye the nature is real, relatively wild, the history of steppe people, their way of living, these are very interesting things for us,” Tatiana said.
Kazakhstan has a significant potential for development of almost all types of tourism: from ecological to business one, according to expert Kenenbai Mambetaliev. However, the country has no laws regulating this sphere.
“Today tourists are not enough protected here. We need to implement the measures of state support, to ease visa and migration control, to make transport more available, to improve the infrastructure of tourist facilities. It’s only then that tourism will turn into a profitable sector of economy of Kazakhstan,” Mambetaliev said.
Last year, according to the head of department of the Travel Industry Committee, Abai Kozhamzharov, the country started to draft the national programme to develop the much-hoped-for industry. One of its major points is the issue of electronic visa for a few hours. Now this process takes three days.
“We are analysing the global experience in this regard. The main problem is the lack of qualified staff and funds. If Czech Republic spends 100 million dollars a year for tourism marketing, Kazakhstan doesn’t spend even 1 million for advertising. Once we raise this question, it’s always left for the future, and the issue remains unsolved,” Kozhamzharov said.
Next year the republican budget is going to allocate 1.1 billion tenges (2.87 million dollars) for the national travel product creation and for its promotion both in global and domestic markets, which is five times more than the 2017 expenditures.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.