Meirzhan Myrzaliyev, deputy governor of the Turkestan region, talks about building a strong workforce and claiming the new region’s share of the tourist dollar.

Q: The area of Turkestan has a long history but as an official administrative region it is new. The administrative centre of the former South Kazakhstan region was Shymkent until June 2018, when it was taken out of the region and subordinated directly to the central government. The administrative center was moved to Turkistan city, and the region renamed Turkestan region. What was the reason behind this restructure and what are the priorities for this new region?

A: Turkestan region was established in 2018 by a special order of the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Shymkent city is growing so quickly with a population of one million people. That’s why the president decided to separately give a special status for the city of Shymkent and to create another new region, Turkestan, which can develop and grow [alongside it]. 

Priority number one is to show this region to the world and present it as the cradle of the Turkic world. Turkestan is home to Unesco World Heritage site the Khoja Ahmed Yasawi Mausoleum [burial site of a Sufi theologian and considered one of the most important mausoleums of the Islamic world], among other cultural and historical treasures. 

The second priority is to raise the economic level, for the whole of southern Kazakhstan, to attract more investors to the region. And the third is the most important, I think: it’s to develop the tourism sector in this area. There are a lot of attractions for that, and a great opportunity, so many untouched places to discover. We know that most of the tourists right now are interested in untouched places, so we can offer this kind of an opportunity, to explore a new region and a new tourist area, and to appreciate the the historical and spiritual significance of the place.

Q: An important part of tourism is accessibility. How easy is it for tourists to get there, especially from international locations, and are there plans to improve connectivity and add more accommodation such as hotels and resorts?

A: Yes, of course. The government of Kazakhstan decided to build Turkestan International Airport, with construction expected to finish in late 2020. 

With central government we are working on this issue. Hopefully to connect, first of all, with Turkey, because we are expecting a lot of tourists from there, and also from Malaysia, Indonesia and Russia. The local and central government are working together to create the right way to connect Turkestan to other places. We currently we use the airpot in Shymkent, which is nor far away. 

In the first nine months of 2019, we already had 2 million visitors to Turkistan city. We are expecting 5 million tourists [per year], so we need hotels. For those who invest in or build the hotels it is a great opportunity. For example, we have a few five-star hotels already but here are no three- or four-star hotels so far in Turkestan. We really need the hotels to attract the right quality of tourist, one who wants to stay in Turkestan, not just come for a day trip while visiting Shymkent. 

Q: And how is the local workforce? Are you doing anything to ensure that the right skills are there?

It’s a common question for the investor who comes to Turkestan. We have a great programme, adopted by central and local government, so if a company needs workers for [a certain sector or project] they can give us the requirement as to what kind of workers they need for the next years, and the local government can make a clear plan to educate this amount of people and allow for that [training] in the government budget. It’s quite simple and is already adopted. 

It’s like a puzzle. The company adds their piece of the puzzle, we add our part of puzzle and at the end it will all fit together.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
fDi Magazine

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