For almost two years the pandemic brought the world to a standstill. Many sectors were affected, especially tourism. According to the UNWTO forecasts, the number of international tourists will only reach the pre-pandemic level by 2024.
In 2022, more than 5.2 million foreign tourists visited Uzbekistan. This is 2.5 million more than the forecast, and 2.9 times more than in 2021. Revenues from tourist services in 2022 exceeded $1.61 billion, while the year before the figure was $296.4 million, compared to $1.55 billion and $951 million, in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
Stay length increased to 4-5 days on average, with expenses up to $305. In 2019, this figure averaged 3 days and $195, respectively. Over the past 3 years, the number of hotel beds has increased threefold reaching roughly 125,000. In 2017, the number was 37,000.
1. Measures taken to boost the sector
Measures were taken to foster a ‘barrier-free tourism’ policy. The tourist visa regime was simplified, with queues and unnecessary checks at airports being removed. “Green corridors” were created at train stations, as well as an electronic registration system for guest. Restrictions on currency exchange were also lifted.
Based on tourist flow analysis, new routes were developed for tourists from more than 40 countries with high potential for tourism. As part of the ‘Travel to Uzbekistan’ program, a cash-back system was launched in September 2022 to reimburse part of the costs of domestic travel.
Samarkand is becoming a world-famous metropolis, an international center of tourism and business. A new Tourist Center and Samarkand Airport were inaugurated, as well as 8 hotels, a congress hall, a park. All flight restrictions on flights have been lifted. Within the framework of Uzbekistan’s chairmanship in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, key tourism infrastructure was enhanced.
2. Pilgrimage tourism
Standards of requirements for tourist services for pilgrimage tourism have been developed. Prayer rooms and ablution rooms were organized at international airports, railway stations and hotels. Halal, Kosher and Vegan standards are being introduced in restaurants and tourist facilities.
In the context of the “Year of Ensuring Human Interests and Development of the Makhalla”, in November 2022, the “International Week of Pilgrimage Tourism” was held in Uzbekistan, which then rose from 32nd place in 2017 to 9th place in 2022 in the Global Muslim Tourism Index report. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has declared the city of Khiva the 2024 tourist capital of the Islamic world. Shakhrisabz will become the tourist capital of the Economic Cooperation Organization in 2024.
The number of flights to Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Arab countries, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and neighboring republics with high potential for pilgrimage tourism will be increased. To that end, Uzbekistan Airways has acquired 12 Airbus A 320 aircraft.
According to government figures, 7 million foreign tourists are expected to arrive in Uzbekistan in 2023, with 12 million domestic tourists. The total revenue could be as high $2 billion. 170 new hotels, 58 hostels, 273 accommodation facilities will be created. More than four hundred new family guest houses will welcome visitors in remote areas.
An agreement with foreign airlines is underway to launch at least 10 international flights per day from Europe, Asia, America, Arab States and neighboring states to Samarkand and at least 1 flight per day to the Fergana Valley, Nukus, Urgench and Termez. The II International Uzbekistan Airports, Aviation & Logistics Forum will be organized in Samarkand to attract foreign airlines to carry out regular flights From 2023, Wizz Air flights to Samarkand from Abu Dhabi, will be increased to at least 4 per week. Flights to destinations such as Hungary, Romania, Italy and Cyprus are also being evaluated.
More tourist zones will be created in Zaamin, Farish, Bakhmal districts and the Aidar-Arnasai lake system. ‘Safari’ tourism in the steppe regions of Karakalpakstan, Bukhara, Kashkadarya, Navoi, Surkhandarya, Ferghana and Khorezm regions. Ecotourism development programs are also underway in Karakalpakstan and the Aral Sea region. Beach areas around lakes such as Akchakul, Ashshi, Zikri, Aidarkul, Tuzkon and Tudakul, will be further developed. The “Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026” intends to boost medical tourism infrastructure in Namangan, Ferghana, Syrdarya, Kashkadarya, Navoi, Tashkent regions.
From 16 to 20 October 2023, the 25th session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization will be held in Samarkand. Within its framework, more than 20 events will be organized at the international level and the Silk Road Prize in the field of tourism will be established. In 2023, museum fairs and expositions in Europe, Southeast Asia and America will be organized.