November 15, 2018- Tourism seminar. Global Entrepreneurship Week

The tourism sector has contributed 10% to the global GDP last year. This sector of the economy requires a comparatively small investment while allowing for generation of hard currency inflow. The creation of small and medium enterprises and start-ups in technologically advanced countries in the private sector has provided much needed employment to the local population. Therefore, a full day was dedicated to the tourism industry of the Global Entrepreneurship Week ( GEW) held in Tashkent during November 12-17, 2018.
The AmCham Tourism and Hospitality Industry Committee held the seminar “Why Uzbekistan: tourism sector development issues” during the GEW. Over 100 participants from the tourism sector of Uzbekistan including state agencies (state tourism agency, national railways and airlines), hotels, tour operators and international airlines attended the seminar.

Anvar Allagergenov, the Head of the department, State Committee of Tourism Development stated “The government of Uzbekistan puts a priority on the tourism sector development in Uzbekistan, therefore the reforms in this sector are tremendous with 140 practical measures that facilitated visa processing and mandatory temporary registration of foreign citizens via www.Emehmon.uz”.

Main developments include:
– Introduction of visa free regime for 9 countries and simplified visa for 43 nationals
– Car rentals for up to 30 days to foreign citizens and nationals of Uzbekistan
– Simplified investment procedures for investors in the tourism sector
This has resulted in:
– Launch of 199 new tour operators within the 9 months of 2018 vs 127 in 2017
– 120 potential investors from 20 countries (US, China, South Korea, Turkey, Germany)
– 3.9 million tourists (internal and international) in 2018 vs 1.8 million in 2017

“The government continues reforms in the tourism sector and is open to recommendations and public and private partnership cooperation models” finished Allabergenov.

Puneet Tandon, Hyatt Regency Area Vice President, General Manager and Chairman of AmCham Tourism and Hospitality Industry Committee praised the government of Uzbekistan for the tremendous work accomplished in the sector of tourism development. He especially noted that the steps taken to liberalize visas, upgradation of the arrival terminal at the Tashkent International airport, procurement of new aircrafts including new DREAMLINERS by the national air carrier enabling it to enhance its connectivity with the world – both by way of opening new routes and by also increasing the frequencies within the existing route maps. He mentioned that it is important to further enhance airline connectivity and work on improving services – as inflight services, online check-in etc. Globally, the online reservations (hotels, airlines, tourist attractions) provide a greater degree of comfort and enhance the tourist experience.

Successful countries where the flow of tourists exceeds resident population of the country such as Spain, France and Israel have undertaken destination marketing efforts and worked on the building of a brand image for the country as a whole. The image is built around the differentiators of the country. By way of exquisite history and culture, culinary traditions, safety and security, genuine and warm hospitality, affordable prices, fantastic weather, Uzbekistan already has a lot to offer to the international travellers. A comprehensive destination marketing campaign for the country will greatly enhance its visibility on the world stage and this will directly and positively motivate travellers from across the world to want to travel to Uzbekistan.

It is well known that leisure tourism in Uzbekistan depends a great deal on the season. Globally, 65% of travel is leisure travel, and 24% is business or corporate travel. To offset the losses of the tourism sector during the low season (winter and summer) in Uzbekistan, Puneet suggested to incentivize corporate travel that would fill in the gaps during the low season. He suggested the creation of a Convention Bureau for the country. World over, Convention Bureaus play a leading role in promoting the destination and attracting business tourism. As convention travellers contribute to the success of all tourism collaborators in the destination (e.g. hotels, DMCs and tour operators, independent restaurants, locations of cultural and recreational interests etc.), such an organization will definitely add tremendous value to the economy and support the country in its drive to attract more arrivals to it. Key elements of this would require an effort by tourism players from public and private sectors and coordination by government agencies to work together. Results may not be evident in the short term, but the eventual benefits far outweigh the costs and the efforts necessarily undertaken to put something as this together.

Kate Tetley of the British Council (London, UK), Skills Expert from People on Workforce development for Tourism sector, raised the issue of personnel training in the tourism industry. She shared information about global practices, programs of the tourism sector and employee trainings, elaborating on three projects in Uzbekistan. The British Council holds programs in the tourism colleges in Uzbekistan and conducts on the job trainings. They are piloting three more projects in terms of flexible learning and different lengths of training.

Participants of the Q&A session agreed that the problem of personnel in the tourism sector is a global challenge. It was recognized that qualified and trained personnel may choose other professions (such as the airline industry) instead of tourism, because they may receive higher compensation and benefits.

The discussion also raised the issues of the price of tours and travel in Uzbekistan. They remain relatively high due to the cost of airfare and visas for foreign nationals and their family members who work in Uzbekistan.

At the end of the seminar, participants agreed that regular dialogue between private and public sectors should continue, while more events on various topics related to tourism should be regularly organized and recommendations shared.