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November 2018
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Wednesday, 24 October 2018 18:34

Uzbekistan expects Azerbaijan to join the “Silk visa” zone Featured

Uzbekistan expects Azerbaijan to join the “Silk visa” zone

Caspian Energy (CE): Uzbekistan has set ambitious goals on accelerated development of the tourism field. What work is currently being done in this direction?

Aziz Abdukhakimov, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan: Yes, you are right. The government is working hard on creation of more favorable economic and legal conditions for the development of this area. Besides, rich historical and cultural heritage of Uzbekistan creates broad opportunities for positive image of the country and further growth of the tourists flow.  

Tourism is regarded as the powerhouse in the Republic of Uzbekistan. The country has taken a number of measures on radical simplification of the visa regime. Thus, a visa-free regime has been established additionally for 8 countries and a simplified regime for getting entry-visas is applied for citizens of 51 countries. Introduction of the system of provision of electronic entry visas for 101 countries gave a significant impulse to the development of the inbound tourism in Uzbekistan. Over a period of more than two months alone, about 15,000 electronic visas were given to citizens of 49 countries. I think that further growth will run exponentially, that is to say, more and more rapidly. As a result of taken measures, tourist flow has totaled 3.4 million people over 8 months of this year, which twice higher than the figure of the similar period of 2017.

 

CE: Do undertaken measures have positive impact on attraction of investments?

Aziz Abdukhakimov: Due to the government actions taken to increase entrepreneurial investment activity, provide tax and customs privileges to entrepreneurs engaged in the tourism field, and facilitate procedures of licensing and certification, tourism has become more attractive to foreign businessmen. Large foreign investment companies of the USA, China, Korea, Great Britain, Holland, Singapore and Turkey have expressed interest in developing joint projects on building different infrastructure tourist facilities in Uzbekistan.

For instance, we have recently participated in the opening of the “Sixt Rent A Car” system for foreigners and it should be noted that a very serious foreign company has entered the market of Uzbekistan.

We have been strengthening relations with international organizations, including the World Tourism Organization which gives high rating to the work that is carried out in the field of tourism in Uzbekistan. I hope we will manage to maintain this momentum.

President of Uzbekistan has put ambitious goals before us, which imply bringing the number of foreign visitors to more than 5 million people by 2020, including visitors coming from the neighbor countries and distant foreign countries. Thus, the number of tourists from distant foreign countries alone should exceed 500,000 people. This is a figure which we can handle. But all of us, that is to say, state bodies and private sector must work together and then we can obtain a good result.

 

CE:  Foreign investors have also entered the market of Uzbekistan. In particular, the first mountain resort “Amirsoy” meeting international standards is under construction now.

Aziz Abdukhakimov: Yes. We are now working in order to mitigate fluctuations during the tourism season in Uzbekistan. High tourists flow in spring and autumn had traditionally existed in Uzbekistan, as well as low flow of tourists in summer and winter. 

But today we can say that we have not seen reduction of flow of tourists this summer as it remained on the level of the figure registered in spring. Now we are working in order to ensure sufficient amount of tourist products in winter as well. One of such products is the mountain tourism, ski tourism, as well as gastronomic tourism. Today, we see a deep and strong interest from the Russian Federation regardless of the season. Many our guests- Russians, especially from the north regions, are visiting Uzbekistan with great pleasure in autumn-winter period in order to taste our fruits and cuisine. And I think that here we also have things to work on. 

 

CE:  What work is carried out within the framework of the project on opening “Silk Road” Tourism University in Uzbekistan?

Aziz Abdukhakimov: His Excellency President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan adopted a decision to open an International “Silk Road” Tourism University in the city of Samarkand, which has been a major milestone in the initiatives on development of the tourism field. We are now negotiating with our partners from the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) in order to create a network of this university and open its branches in such countries as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic, and perhaps in future, in other member countries of the organization.  

We are inviting the strongest professors and tutors from all the SCO countries to this university. It is already known that the teaching staff from Turkey, China, Kazakhstan and Russian Federation will work in this university. All this helps us to provide and raise the level of service to our tourists. It is extremely important to ensure a sustainable development of tourism.

 

CE:  How do you view the potential of ties with Azerbaijan in the field of tourism?

Aziz Abdukhakimov: Firstly,I would like to thank our Azerbaijani colleagues for active cooperation and support. We have recently hosted an international music festival of Maqom art attended by Minister of Culture of Azerbaijan Abulfaz Garayev and Ambassador of Azerbaijan to UNESCO Anar Karimov. We always feel broad support of our Azerbaijani friends. We provide mutual support to each other at all international events. Using the opportunity, I want to say that we see a big potential in development of Silk Road and Azerbaijan is its integral part. Now we are about to reach agreement with Kazakhstan to create a single Silk-visa and expect Azerbaijan to join this project.

We are aware of big work carried out in Azerbaijan in the field of tourism development. It is also a good opportunity for us to share experience in the field of tourism with our Azerbaijani counterparts. We have a mutual interest and we can develop tourism both between our countries and offer joint projects concerning visits to Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and other countries of the Silk Road to foreign tourists.

 

CE:  Is the discussion of the issue about the implementation of the Silk visa project running only between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan? Is there interest from other countries of the region?
Aziz Abdukhakimov:
A number ofintergovernmental meetings were held where participants expressed mutual interest in creation of such Silk-visa. The work is now carried out between our law-enforcement agencies and border services so that we can unify a legislative framework, create a necessary information-communication system for exchange of information about foreign visitors of our countries. I think that this work in a phase of active interaction and we certainly try to get other countries involved in this work as well. Kyrgyzstan is showing interest in joining the Silk visa zone.

I hope that other countries of the Silk Road will also join this project eventually. However, again this requires a mutual unification of visa regimes, creation of a single data base for exchange of information, as well as certain changes in the legislation.

                                                        Thank you for the interview

Prepared by Elchin Huseynov

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