Q: Kyrgyzstan was among the exhibitors at the World Travel Market in London in November 2016. Is tourism development of significant interest to the government?
A: Tourism is a priority for Kyrgyzstan. The government has included tourism in its strategy until 2040 as one of the top four priority sectors of the economy [along with industry, agriculture and light manufacturing]. This means that we value tourism as being highly important and will continue to do so for the next 20 to 25 years. Why tourism? Because we think that tourism has great potential, and it is expected to grow.
Q: Why do you feel tourism is a high-potential sector for Kyrgyzstan?
A: There are three reasons. The first is that Kyrgyzstan is a land of sky-high mountains. About 96% of Kyrgyzstan’s territory is mountains. With eco-tourism becoming such a trend, people want to experience such places and visit destinations off the beaten track. One of the world’s highest mountain peaks, more than 7400 metres, is located in Kyrgyzstan. This has great potential for mountaineering.
The second reason is that Kyrgyzstan is located right at the start of the Great Silk Road after China; about 500 historic places from various periods are located along the Silk Road, and this route was included in Unesco’s heritage list in 2014 as the Tian Shan Corridor. There are many historic places of interest in Kyrgyzstan that tourists from many countries want to visit.
The third reason is our rich and very deep-rooted nomadic culture. During the summer, tourists visit and live in the mountains in very beautiful settings in yurts: they want to experience this culture and the traditions for themselves and to see our local national games and pastimes. To promote this culture, in 2014 we initiated a project called the World Nomadic Games, at which we gathered 19 countries; these were a kind of Olympic games for our [traditional and national] sports. In 2016 we gathered 62 countries at these games.
Q: How many tourists are you receiving every year?
A: As at the end of 2016, we had 3.8 million foreign citizens who visited Kyrgyzstan, and to date, tourism accounts for 4.6% to 4.7% of the country’s GDP. In 2017, for the first time in 27 years of independence, we will have reached 5.5%.
Q: What type of investment are you seeking in the tourism sector?
A: First of all we are seeking investments into our airports. We want to lease our main airports to management companies.
Second, because our tourism [industry] is only developing and starting to stand on its own two feet, in Kyrgyzstan there are not enough world-class hotels in many locations.
Third, lately we have promoted tourist destinations such as Lake Issyk-Kul, where there has been a lot of development in things such as health tourism. But [the area] has a shortage of hotels with spas, facilities to hold conferences for business tourism, and sporting facilities.
Q: Are there any special incentives available?
A: In terms of taxation, doing business generally and also in terms of democratic values and protection of investors, according to many indicators we are leading in Central Asia. And, regarding any special tourism programmes to attract specifically investment into tourism, currently a package is being prepared in parliament. We are also creating special tourism zones, where there will be preferential conditions for investors. In the next six months, we will solve this problem. However, in terms of investment climate, we have a very good situation in this country already.