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Will Kazakhstan become the land of tourism resorts?

Kazakhstan becoming top player of Central Asian tourism industry

Kazakhstan becoming top player of Central Asian tourism industry
Image via kazakhstanlive.com

By Agha Iqrar Haroon, eTN Correspondent, Pakistan | Apr 26, 2012

KAZAKHSTAN (eTN) – The Kazakhstan tourism industry expects fast movement in the region by announcing the development of one of the world’s longest ski reports in a country that currently ranks at 93 out of 139 in the World Tourism Ranking for 2011. Kazakhstan tourism announced new strategic plans targeting every coming year, with each year aiming for further success. The government is trying to convert Kazakhstan into the "Land of Tourism Resorts."

The government has approved plan for the creation of an international resort with total ski runs running 100 km in length, along with the construction of passenger cableways, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, and golf courses; and the establishment of infrastructure - roads, parking, electricity, gas, and water supply at Kok-Zhaylyao that is located on the territory of Ile-Alatau Park. This ski resort will be a new addition in the neighborhood of Almaty in the radius of 50 km, where there are ten existing ski resorts: Shimbulak, Ak-bulak, Tabagan, Almatau, Yelik-Say, Shybynsay, Enbek, Tau-Turan, Forest tail, Dinamo, a resort in Kaskelen gorge, and other lesser-known resorts.

The main attraction of Kazakhstan for European tourists today is still its virgin nature, such as Ile-Alatau National Park, and now government is attracting all walks of life for the tourism industry, instead of only nature-loving tourists.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports has already sent a request for allocation of funds from the national budget, and this project is called "strategic" and considered to pull the tourism economy of the country.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Development Plan (Program) of Kazakhstan will be finalized before the end of 2012, and this State (government) program for the development of tourist industry of Kazakhstan will be based on needs and demands of the industry today and also calculated for future demands till the period up to the year 2020. According to official sources, including the office of Minister of Industry and Innovative Technologies, it is hoped that by the end of the year, a tourism development program that carries through until 2020, would be approved. According to this plan, tourism will be seen as a strong and promising industry that will give a strong impetus to the economy.

Until the end of June, we plan to make the concept of long-term development of the industry as [a] base of modernization of the economy in which the basic mechanisms to address all issues of tourism development will be addressed. Until the end of September, the Ministry plans to hold a competition of regional projects, [with] complete financial and economic analysis, and by the end of November, is scheduled to complete work on [an] industrial tourism development program.

Statistics show a steady growth of [the] tourism industry of the country. The volume of services rendered by the tourism industry last year stood at 74 billion tenge (current rate: 147.82/US$1). [The] program includes the development of a system of measures for development of the tourism industry and will identify the key tourist projects on the international level, to ensure that the massive influx of tourists, the creation of a favorable tourist brand, to key installations will be accompanied by the necessary infrastructure at the expense of the State. In addition, the State will establish a framework for the preparation of the necessary personnel.

On the other hand, some NGOs are strongly crticizing the development of such resorts and claim that Kok-Zhaylyao tract, which is located to the south of Almaty city, is one of the most affordable and favorite places of Almaty native citizens and guests who are fond of hiking, trekking, biking, skiing, and equestrian tourism. The tract can be reached via several trails from the big and small Almaty Gorges. Hundreds of people come here with their families to stay for a few hours or even for several days, and Almaty citizens will lose their favorite place of leisure and get first the roar of construction equipment and then a ski resort and solid fences around the private land holdings, instead of calm and beautiful wild nature.

NGOs believe that construction of a new resort in the national park contradicts not only with the national legislation on protected areas, environmental protection, water, forest and land resources, but with international law as well - in particular, with the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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