Tourism and Hospitality Committee First Plenary Session

The first plenary session of the Tourism and Hospitality Committee of AmCham Uzbekistan was held at the Hyatt Regency Tashkent on January 16, 2018 with the participation of members in the tourism and hospitality sector. Also participating were the Ambassadors of Israel, Bangladesh and Ukraine, representatives of the Latvian Embassy, the European Union Delegation, the Deputy Chairman of the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Development of Tourism, Mr. Shakhrukh Sharakhmetov, and Advisor of the General Director of Uzbekistan Airways, Mr. Orhan Sivrikaya.

The fundamental purpose of this committee is to put heads together to discuss issues of common interest related to the sector, and benefit from the rapid and positive changes currently occurring in Uzbekistan. The Chairman of the Tourism and Hospitality Committee of AmCham Uzbekistan, General Manager of Hyatt Regency Tashkent and Area Vice President, Mr. Puneet Tandon, in his opening remarks reminded participants that accelerated development of the tourism industry’s contribution to the economy, including diversification and improvement in the quality of tourist services, and upgrading of tourism infrastructure, are among five priority areas of Uzbekistan’s Development strategy for 2017-2020.

In his remarks, Mr. Tandon emphasized how the tourism and hospitality industry is said to employ, either directly or indirectly, every 9th person in the international labor force. The value chain addition by the industry is a huge contributor to most world economies. Many countries have the tourism sector contributing double digit figures to their local economies. As per WTO 2014 report, the figure for Uzbekistan is currently under 1%.

The positive shift in Uzbek tourism development was noted by all participants. The world is increasingly recognizing the beauty of the country, so it should be no surprise that Uzbekistan has been listed among the 50 top destinations to visit in 2018 by the one of the leading world travel publications, Travel and Leisure. Unlike other listings that mention specific cities, the feature on Uzbekistan is for the country as a whole. The recent issue of Forbes magazine also lists Uzbekistan as destination worth traveling to. Additionally, the December issue of the Economist magazine has a feature on the country. Mr. Tandon’s remarks highlighted the positive buzz and how fortunate we are to be in Uzbekistan at this exciting time for the industry in this country.

The discussion session of the meeting centered on several fundamental gaps and potential opportunities of the hospitality and tourism environment in Uzbekistan. Cultural calendars, catalogues and guide-books in several languages about all destinations in Uzbekistan were requested by tour agents, who also participated in the discussion.

Ambassador of Bangladesh, H.E. Mosud Mannan raised matters which necessitate considerable attention, one of which is Uzbek literary heritage, which was suggested should be translated into foreign languages and distributed around the world. Ibn Sino, Al-Khwārizmī, Ulugbek, and Alisher Navoi are all names which speak for themselves. Among other suggestions raised was a proposal to organize more cultural events that would attract tourists from all parts of the globe. One such example of this type of event was given by Ambassador of Israel, H.E. Edward Shapira. He brought up the uniqueness of Registan Square which already attracts tourists worldwide, especially when concerts of well recognized global musicians take place there.

The Ambassador also raised the real issue of transit tourism which is currently undeveloped in Uzbekistan. Many Israeli tourists, for example, travel through Tashkent in transit to other countries and wish to visit their relatives in Uzbekistan. The existing visa regime results in lost opportunities for tourism because of documentation problems for transit tourists. Registration requirements for tourists is also an issue for both individual tourists and tourism agencies. One proposal is to prolong the period of time before registration is required up to 10 days.

More participants, including representatives of hotels in other cities of Uzbekistan, as well as decision makers in tourism and hospitality sector will take part in the future Plenary sessions, the idea of which was strongly supported by the representatives of the Uzbek State Tourism Committee, and Uzbekistan Airways.

UPDATE: As of February 1, 2018, simplified procedures for issuing tourist visas are introduced for citizens of 39 countries, including the European Union, India, and the United States, reportedly reducing the issue time to two days. As of February 10, 2018, citizens of seven countries — Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey, and Japan — will be allowed 30 days visa-free travel in Uzbekistan.