Since Uzbekistan’s Independence its tourism industry has been coherently developing. Large-scale reforms that have been carried out by the government resulted in thoroughgoing changes in tourism infrastructure. New tourism directions have been developed, modern hotels have been constructed, ancient historical monuments and shrines for pilgrimage have been restored, a number of new highways have been laid out.
Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov addressing the opening ceremony of the 99th session of the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization taken place in October last year in Samarkand City stated that, “when we talk about Uzbekistan’s enormous tourist potential, first thing that comes to mind are the most ancient civilization and culture that emerged and developed in the area, rock paintings and petroglyphs, unique historical monuments, majestic and unique samples of material culture and architecture. All this can and must transform our country into one of the centers of world tourism”.
Over the past three years the number of foreign tourists visiting Uzbekistan increased by more than 30 percent, while export to the tourism industry has grown three times. It has been achieved as the result of intensive work carried out by the National Company “Uzbektourism” aimed at promoting national tourist services on the global market.
Since 2011 “Mega-Info-Tours” – free introductory tours – have been held in Uzbekistan. Every year, more than three hundred representatives of media and tourist companies from different countries participate in this project which allows to expand their partnerships with international channels, including “Euronews”, “BS-Asahi”, “World Travel”, “Russia 1” and others.
Fruitful cooperation with the world famous TV channel “Euronews” has been established, whose news, cultural, scientific and other programs are broadcasted 24 hours in 13 languages in 155 countries of the world. Last year the channel broadcasted the opening ceremony of the 99th session of the UNWTO EC, aired three programs about Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. This year it launched of a new rubric “City-tour” dedicated to tourism potential of Tashkent. At the same time, millions of viewers in different countries learned about the sights, architectural monuments of our cities that were part of the Great Silk Road.
In March 2015, 158 foreign guests participated in travel program of “Mega-Info-Tours” that was organized jointly with the embassies of Uzbekistan and supported by leading private travel agencies of the Republic and State Company “Uzbektourism”.
Major changes in the tourist life in the country took place in 2014. Uzbekistan showed its huge potential in the industry even more confidently on the international arena. Local tourist organizations became regular participants of large specialized international exhibitions. Stands of Uzbekistan generated great interest in the exposures in Madrid, Berlin, Moscow, Paris, Rome and Tokyo.
Since the beginning of this year, “Uzbektourism” has participated in dozens of international exhibitions and events, including “FITUR-2015” (Spain), “EMITT 2015” (TURKEY) and “ITB 2015” (Germany). The company has demonstrated the rich tourist potential of the country and held talks with top management of the UNWTO, heads of tourism administrations of the Member States of the Executive Board of the organization, specialized companies interested in sending tourists to Uzbekistan and participation in international tourism fairs held in Uzbekistan.
For example, there was a major presentation entitled “Uzbekistan on the Silk Road” in the framework of “FITUR-2015” held in Madrid and the national stand of Uzbekistan was awarded the title of best in the category of “Country Stand”. The participants familiarized with a unique historical and cultural heritage and traditions of the Uzbek people, natural resources and tourist attractions.
A representative of the Spanish travel company «Irbis Viajes», Luis Martinez, in his commentary about Uzbekistan’s tourist potential wrote, “Uzbekistan, which the cradle of civilization, is very attractive for tourists from around the world. Openness and hospitality of the Uzbek people leave an unforgettable impression on visitors”.
In January, a French journalist, Marie-Angelique Ozan, published an article entitled “Uzbekistan: the caravan of craftsmen” in “Le Figaro Magazine”, which tells the readers about our country and its rich heritage. “Uzbekistan is not only famous for its beautiful architectural monuments, but also with a treasure of national applied arts – products of craftsmen, potters, gold masters, miniature artists and weavers. They inspire the connoisseurs of beauty and travelers around the world, attracting the exotic East “- she writes.
Last April the tourist potential of the country was presented in Indonesia and in the International Tourism Fair “Natas Fair 2015” in Singapore. A road-show in Jakarta was held in three stages: the bilateral negotiations in the “B2B” format between travel agencies of both countries, the general presentation of Uzbekistan as one of the tourist centers and slideshows of popular tourism companies in Indonesia. One of the key outcomes of these events was a significant increase in the number of tourists to Uzbekistan from South-East Asia after the opening of regular flights between Singapore and Tashkent.
In 2013, “Uzbektourism” together with the relevant ministries, agencies and the Municipality of Tashkent City held an International Uzbek Tourism Exhibition “World of Rest” (IUTE). A year later, as part of this event International scientific-practical seminar of UNWTO on gastronomic tourism and pilaf festival “Pilaf Fest” were organized. This year the leading tour operators, hotels and administration of regions of Uzbekistan, as well as national administrations and private tourist companies from abroad – over 147 companies from 30 countries – presented their programs on coming tourist season. Participants discussed the current state of the tourism market of the region and its potential, established new business relations, strengthened old ties.
During the exhibition an international conference – “Prospects of development of gastronomic tourism in Uzbekistan” – was organized with the support of the World Tourism Organization. The results of the survey on priorities for 2016-2017 in tourist destinations in member countries of the UNWTO show that gastronomic tourism is one of the most important tourist direction. As a result, the UNWTO decided to establish the Network of gastronomic tourism as part of its program. Our country has acted as one of its initiators.
“Culinary tourism is about 30 percent of tourist spending on the global level, and gastronomy is an important element of the local culture and identity”, – said an UNWTO expert, Director of the Spanish company «Aprende de Turismo» Raul Garcia Gonzalez. “It contains a significant potential to increase tourism offers in each region by concentrating attention on the promotion and improvement of its traditional cuisine”.
A practical step towards the formation of the country’s gastronomic tourism became a national food festival “A Taste of the Silk Road.” In this year’s event the best chefs from different regions of the country have shown the national traditions and peculiarities of preparation of dishes of Uzbek cuisine to foreign visitors.
For the development of event tourism in Uzbekistan the “Uzbektourism” developed a regularly updated “Calendar of tourist events” of various activities. In December 2014, preliminary version of the calendar for 2015 appeared on the official website of the company, and the final version was posted on the website – welcomeuzbekistan.uz – with proposals of agencies and travel companies. This resource was launched in 2013. Overseas travel companies and tourists can find all the information on upcoming trip to our country. Currently, the information is available in six languages – Russian, English, German, Spanish, French and Korean, but soon the portal Italian, Chinese and Japanese languages will be available too.
Uzbekistan is strongly committed to continue vigorously stimulating the development of tourism and expanding cooperation with foreign partners in this field to strengthen its position on the international tourism market by attracting more visitors to the ancient and fabulous cities of the Great Silk Road – Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, as well as to promoting other historical monuments of the country.