Tourism is a driving force of development in Central Asia
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) -- Tourism for many countries is one of the priority areas for economic development, ensures GDP growth, creates new jobs and ultimately increases the income of the population.
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism ranks fourth in world exports of goods and services (7.4%), and in terms of profitability it ranks third after the oil and automobile industries.
It is no coincidence that during his speech on 6 August 2021 at the Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia in Turkmenistan, the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev focused on the importance of developing the Central Asian tourist destination. The urgency of promoting joint tourism programs according to the principle "One tour - the whole region" was emphasized.
The special importance of the tourism sector is explained by the fact that it was this industry that was most affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Experts from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) note that at the end of last year, the international tourism economy decreased by almost 80%. Of course, these processes also affected the countries of Central Asia, including Uzbekistan.
So, if in 2019 the number of tourists visiting our region amounted to about 18.4 million people, then by the end of 2020, in conditions of a lockdown in many countries of the world and permanent closure of borders, this indicator decreased by almost 5 times, and amounted to only 3.8 million tourists.
In this regard, the voiced regional initiative of the Head of Uzbekistan is designed to help the rapid development of the tourism industry through joint actions. Moreover, the famous American-Australian travel guide "Lonely Planet" in 2020 has already chosen Central Asia as a promising region for tourist trips.
According to this online service, the beauty and architecture of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, as well as the Pamir mountain ranges and other attractions of the region are attractive to tourists. It is noteworthy that Central Asia has a unique historical and natural potential and of more than 1000 sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, 51 are located in our region.
I would like to note that Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are already actively working on the introduction of the so-called "Asian Schengen" - the "Silk Road Visa" project. The parties, having agreed on organizational and technical issues, incl. regulations on multiple-entry e-visa, intend to introduce this mechanism by the end of 2021.
Kyrgyz and Tajik travel companies are already showing interest in this program, which creates prospects for the implementation of a full-fledged "Central Asian Schengen".
At the same time, for the successful implementation of the One Tour - Whole Region initiative, experts believe, it is necessary to simplify the rules of border, customs and migration control, introduce a single visa, and develop transport and information communications.
Development of joint expeditions, improvement of transport infrastructure, launch of certified tourist bus routes. Creation and joint promotion of competitive tourism products at the international level, the formation of a single database on the tourism opportunities of the region.
It is safe to say that with the improvement of the epidemiological situation, as well as the mass vaccination against coronavirus infection, tourism will again become an important area of economic development and a promising industry for a number of countries and regions.
Regional tourist interaction between our countries, which have a common culture, history, traditions, will positively affect the well-being of the population, and Central Asia will take its rightful place in the list of tourist destinations.
In general, cross-border tourism according to the principle "One tour - the whole region" is an opportunity to provide foreign tourists with a unique opportunity to plunge into an authentic way of life, touch the historical monuments of ancient architecture, feel the culture, national tastes and traditions within one trip throughout the Central Asian region ...
Ramziddin Gulyamov - Chief Researcher of the International Institute of Central Asia