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SWITCH-Asia Greentour Project Steps up for a Sustainable, Inclusive, and Safe Recovery of the Tourism Sector in Kyrgyzstan

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SWITCH-Asia Greentour Project Steps up for a Sustainable, Inclusive, and Safe Recovery of the Tourism Sector in Kyrgyzstan
Country: Kyrgyzstan

The tourism sector is recognised by the Kyrgyz Government as one of the key sectors for the economy and is expected to grow in size in the upcoming years. Prior to the pandemic, tourism has contributed 4 percent to GDP and employed 3.6 percent of the workforce, and this was continuously increasing in the five previous years. 

According to a World Bank analysis (2021), before the COVID-19 outbreak, Kyrgyzstan was in in the process of realising its potential for growth and job creation in tourism, leveraging two key market segments: soft adventure – boosting ecotourism and cultural experiences in highland areas, and promoting visits to attractions such as the Lake Issyk-Kul; and  winter tourism – attracting visitors to its skiing destinations.  

Even though some airlines have resumed flights and the domestic tourism industry has managed to save part of the summer season, it will likely take several years for the country to fully recover from the impacts that COVID-19 had on Kyrgyzstan’s tourism sector. In spite of the global pause in the industry, since its launch in 2020, the EU SWITCH-Asia Greentour Project and its implementing partners have been able to spearhead several initiatives, promoting green tourism, destination awareness and outreach, and addressing and providing solutions to the sector’s  current sustainability challenges.

On 15th May, 2021, Greentour supported the organisation of the International Tourism Fair (Issyk-Kul ITF) 'I AM NOMAD' held on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul. Since 2016, this event annually takes place in partnership with the Tourism Department under the Ministry of Economy and the Association of Kyrgyz Resorts. Over 2,000 people attended the Fair. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The event was opened by Mr. Japarov Sadyr Nurguzhoevich, President of the Kyrgyz Republic, who emphasized the importance of tourism as a key sector of the country’s economy and the need to further promote Kyrgyzstan's tourism products in international tourism markets.

I am confident that this tourism fair will become a good platform to strengthen cooperation among tourism businesses in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and other countries. One of the priorities of the country's development should be tourism. Our domestic tourism industry needs to create conditions that meet international service standards and improve the image of Kyrgyzstan in the world stage. At the same time, we should preserve the nature of our country and remember the authenticity of our historical and cultural values, said President Japarov Sadyr Nurguzhoevich.

On 22nd June, 2021 the Greentour team held a series of meetings and visits in the Naryan region. The first high-level meeting was attended by Sabyrkul Abasovich Ashimbayev, the Governor of Naryn, Samarbek Bolotbekov, the Mayor of Naryn and representatives of local self-government bodies. Challenges currently facing the tourism industry in the region, as well as solutions and opportunities for collaborative action to address the identified problems were discussed during this meeting. Key outcomes were a strong expression of commitment by the Governor to support the SWITCH-Asia project in its mission to promote sustainable development through boosting responsible tourism in the region; the Mayor of Naryn also invited the Greentour team to join the working group for the development of the Programme of Development of Naryn City for 2023-2028.

This meeting was followed by a visit of the Naryn region where the Greentour team met with representatives of the hotel and tourism industry, tour operators, local communities and local governments. Main objective of the visit was to raise stakeholders’ awareness on Greentour activities, as well as to listen to the voices of those who are most affected by the challenges and barriers of developing sustainable tourism. 

Capacity building was identified as a critical need by tourism sector stakeholders. Hence, earlier in the spring, Greentour conducted a series of workshops on sustainable tourism management for tour operators and hoteliers in three cities in Kyrgyzstan. The workshop series was facilitated by Anula Galewska, international tourism consultant and was attended by more than 150 participants who had the opportunity not only to learn about sustainable tourism and tourism management, but also to share their experience and knowledge, and network with potential partners. 

Participants received institutional and practical assistance on how to register for the Travelife-Sustinability in Tourism Initiative. Eight companies were able to move to the second of the three phases of the programme, becoming a Travelife Partner and proving their commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism.

In practice, in August 2021Travel Experts, a partner of the Greentour Project and a Travelife Partner, organised and conducted a tour for a group of people from Slovakia. Sustainable tourism practices were adopted including: minimal use of disposable items, garbage collection and proper disposal of waste while visiting nature attractions, supporting women entrepreneurs through visits to local souvenir production cooperatives, and using locally sourced and produced products to prepare guests' meals. The group also had the opportunity to fully immerse in indigenous culture and learn about Kyrgyz traditions while respecting the lifestyle of local communities. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To celebrate World Clean-up Day, on 19th Septemberthe Kyrgyz Association of Tour Operators (KATO), the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan and the Greentour project organised a clean-up event to raise awareness on pollution of hiking trails, with a call to action to promote environmentally friendly practices such as proper collection, sorting and recycling of waste. 

More than 100 students from the Academy of Tourism, the Kyrgyz-Korean College and Institute in Central Asia, the Kyrgyz Economic University (KEU) and 30 representatives of the Trekking Union (TUK) joined together to clean the garbage piled along the road to the lake Kol-Tor (Kegeti Gorge) and the area surrounding the lake. As a result of this clean-up, 48 bags of garbage were collected and sorted during a 14 km long walk. With the support of the Tazar mobile application team, an active partner of the project, the waste was brought to collection points in order to be recycled. 

On 26th-27th September, 2021 the first Regional Tourism Forum "Development of Tourism in a New Environment by Joint Efforts. Kyrgyzstan 2021" and the first Regional Tourism Trade Fair "Kyrgyzstan on the Branches of the Great Silk Road" took place in the city of Osh. The events were attended by members of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, heads and representatives of diplomatic missions, representatives of international organisations, NGOs, destination management organisations and tourism businesses from Kuwait, Turkey, Russia, Uzbekistan, and India. 

Greentour supported the participation of the new Naryn Tourism Association in this event, encouraging the promotion of their services and goods during the Fair, finding potential business partners and learning about national and international good practices in the tourism sector, developing green tourism, marketing and fundraising, and safety measures when travelling. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nargiza Kudaiberdieva, Greentour Project Manager was also awarded a Certificate of Honour For Fruitful Work on the Development of Tourism in the Osh Region, which was presented on behalf of the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic in Osh Oblast. 

When the Fair ended, an exchange tour was organised for 11 representatives of the tourism sector of Naryn Oblast to visit Osh Oblast. In particular, the visit to the country’s highest altitude hotel ‘Alpine Dome Hotel Pamir-Alay’ enabled participants to learn about the green technologies used in this hotel, and test tour products from this region. The tour ended with the organisation and delivery of a workshop on tour products development and exchanges of knowledge and experiences from participants in the two regions.  

The European Union continues to support the tourism sector across Central Asia, including in Kyrgyzstan, to improve current and develop new services, increasing the competitiveness of this sector. Projects like the EU funded SWITCH-Asia GREENTOUR provide a great opportunity to rethink how the tourism impacts natural resources and ecosystems. It also helps advance the transition towards a green and climate resilient economy, said Mr Eduard Auer, Head of the European Union Delegation to the Kyrgyz Republic. 

Photo credits:  

© SWITCH-Asia GREENTOUR 

© MederMyrzaev