GCC - new market for uzbek tourism

TASHKENT is a home of Islamic culture and ancient city, wants foreign companies to invest in its tourism sector by building hotels and other related infrastructure, the country’s top tourism official said. Zahid Khakimov is the chairman of Uzbektourism, explained to a group of visiting journalists that the Uzbek government was keen to increase the number of tourists from the current 1 million annually and wanted to welcome people from the GCC countries. "We need foreign investors…their money for hotels, transportation", Khakimov said, adding that the government was taking steps to privatize the entire tourism sector where 90 percent of all services were already in private hands.Uzbek history is closely linked with Islam.

Cities like Samarkand and Bukhara, which lay on the old Silk Route, are home for centuries-old monuments, mausoleums and trading halls that have a huge tourism potential.  He told journalists visiting Uzbekistan at the invitation of the government that there were 600 tour operators in the country, which became independent in 1991, and five international airports to cater tourists - 70%  of which currently coming from Europe.  He said that while there were nearly 240 hotels in Uzbekistan with a capacity to hold up to 20,000 tourists, there were only two top-end 5-star hotels in the capital Tashkent. More were needed to attract high-end tourists. According to Khakimov, 10 new hotels would be open in Bukhara city, which is said to be at least 2,750 years old. 

The government was also planning to open three Tourism & hospitality institutes to train people in the business and services related to the tourism industry, Khakimov said. Tashkent is currently connected with the UAE through four Uzbekistan Airways flights a week - two from Dubai and two from Sharjah, said Sabirov Rakhimberdi, regional manager, Middle East, Uzbekistan Airways. He said the airlines were looking at increasing the flight frequency in regards of a rise in tourist traffic from the UAE. This gives ample flexibility to the traveler to work out the length of the journey, said Ibrahim Nalkhande, COO for Travel of Planet Group that represents Uzbekistan Tourism in the Gulf countries and Uzbekistan Airways in the UAE.  Nalkhande said Uzbekistan was a versatile and diversified destination, which could be sold to families, honeymoon seekers for its history and culture, religious and eco-tourism, sports and adventure etc. At the same time there was also a huge potential for companies to hold meetings, he added.