ALMATY, Kazakhstan – The oil- and mineral-rich Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan has targeted its nascent tourism industry for expansion with the Kazakh authorities using the Spanish model as a reference.
“There is much to do and learn. The Spanish model is a reference for us because Spain is a powerhouse in the tourism industry,” the head of Tourism and Promotion for the southeastern region of Almaty, Aslan Konurkhanov, told a group of international journalists taking part in a press tour of the region.
The move is part of Kazakhstan’s bid to rank among the world’s top 30 economies by the year 2050, which the government says would require diversification into industries other than oil and gas.
According to figures from Spain’s National Institute of Statistics, this year between January and August 29 million excursionists and 58.2 million tourists spent at least 24 hours in the country.
Last year, the total visitor spending reached some 90 billion euros.
Kazakh authorities said they have taken note of the contribution of tourism to Spain’s economic success and were “aware of the value” of the industry and its capacity as an engine for growth.
Konurkhanov said the country had relaxed visa requirements for international visitors and would be promoting Kazakhstan Jan. 22-26, 2020 at FITUR, Madrid, Spain’s annual international tourism trade fair that this year attracted more than 250,000 visitors.
He told travel writers gathered in Almaty, the country’s largest city located along the Zailiyskiy Alatau mountain range, that the region had developed a Master Plan centering on snow and mountain tourism that includes more than ten different resort areas and that by 2025 they will have 13 hotel complexes ready.
The Kazakh official said that, thanks to the journalists, they expect the number of tourists to increase considerably and will become “a reference and a world leading tourist destination” in several years.
Most visitors currently come from Russia, China, Germany and Turkey.
The Almaty Tourist Office recommends excursions such as to Kaindy Lake, about 120 kilometers from the city, a hidden body of water 400 meters long, up to 30 meters deep and 2,000 meters above sea level; and Moon Canyon or the Valley of the Castles on the Charyn river.
Activities such as experiencing the life of nomadic ancestors are also to be offered, where locals demonstrate their customs and traditions such as horse riding, ancient ceremonies and their own cuisine, which includes lamb including the head and its most precious part, the animal’s eyes.