The new authorities of Kyrgyzstan, like their predecessors, decided to revive the tourism industry in the country from Issyk-Kul, which is a kind of litmus paper of Kyrgyz tourism. It determines how the tourist season will pass, or how it has passed.
The head of the state committee of the government of Kyrgyzstan on tourism, sport and youth policy Bektur Asanov (recently a member of parliament) said at a press conference on the eve of the opening of the new tourist season that he hoped that at least one and a half million tourists would visit Kyrgyzstan in 2005. According to Asanov, the government has developed a number of anti-crisis measures to ensure the security of the development of tourism in the country, especially because of the events of March 24, 2005. When, as official authorities admit, the image of Kyrgyzstan, like, “a quiet and serene harbor” has plummeted.
The authorities have created a kind of operational headquarters where all information will flow and which will decide everything in an operational manner. The headquarters includes both tour operators, representatives of law enforcement agencies and rescue services. Information boards with special helpline numbers for all tourists will be installed at the Chaldyvar and Akzhol checkpoints.
The main blow to the rescue of Kyrgyz tourism will be dealt, figuratively speaking, on Issyk-Kul. Because last year only a million tourists visited Issyk-Kul out of a total of one and a half million. Of these, 70% were tourists from Kazakhstan, 10% each from the southern regions of Siberia and Uzbekistan. The remaining 10% is from other countries.
In order to preserve the former flow of tourists to Issyk-Kul, the government is taking openly populist steps, such as, for example, removing traffic police posts from the Bishkek-Cholponat road. It also organizes round tables to rescue the Kyrgyz tourism industry. Thus, on July 15, 2005, a round table was held in Cholponat on the theme: “Problems of developing tourism in the Issyk-Kul region” with the participation of representatives of the authorities and business circles. This event was devoted to a discussion of the results of a sociological study to identify problems and barriers existing in the tourism industry of Kyrgyzstan, which was held from May 16 to June 16, 2005. in Almaty (Kazakhstan) and in the Issyk-Kul region. At the end of the tourist season it is planned to conduct a sociological study on the results of the measures taken.
Another way out of the current situation, according to the government, should be a powerful advertising campaign to create a positive image of Kyrgyzstan in the world. The government of Switzerland is ready to invest more than a million dollars in the ambitious plans of official Bishkek. According to Swiss specialists, the money will mainly be directed to the participation of Kyrgyz companies in tourism fairs, the publication of periodicals and colorful posters.
The Association for the Promotion of Kyrgyzstan decided to launch its information campaign as an attractive country for tourists with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan. The Association organized a special tour for journalists from Europe and the USA in Bishkek, Alaarcha National Park, Issyk-Kul Lake. It is symbolic that the tour program was built as if it was designed for wealthy tourists who were decided to “surprise” with the cuisine at the Hyatt hotel and the worn-out beauties of the usual tourist routes.
As for 70% of tourists from Kazakhstan, the government of Kyrgyzstan goes to great lengths so that this figure does not fall this year. Thus, in early July of this year, an unprecedented press conference was held in Almaty with the participation of Kalybek Alyshbayev, Vice-Governor of Issyk-Kul Oblast, Bektur Asanov, head of the state committee of the Kyrgyz government on tourism, sport and youth policy, and representatives of the traffic police, customs, and the border service of Kyrgyzstan , to assure the citizens of Kazakhstan that the rest should be continued only in Issyk-Kul.
According to the press service of the Border Troops of the National Security Service of Kyrgyzstan dated July 22, 2005, the checkpoint on the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border was agreed upon by the heads of the border services of the two countries.
In addition to all this, in order to entice tourists from neighboring Kazakhstan, the authorities once again decided to build a new highway Cholponat-Almaty. The Kyrgyz government “persuaded” the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for $ 150,000 to prepare a feasibility study for the project. Total for the construction of the road need 50 million dollars. If, nevertheless, a new highway will be built at least next year, then the road from Almaty to Issyk-Kul will be halved. “Surprise” for Kazakh tourists will be payment for travel on the new road when it is built.
It is noteworthy that all measures to save the tourist season in Kyrgyzstan began from July, while in official papers the opening of the new tourist season began from June 1 and will continue until September 1 of this year. And as always, everything is solved in an emergency way and in a one-way direction. Local tour operators believe that only Issyk-Kul is able to save Kyrgyz tourism, while foreign tour operators believe that the development of ecological and transit tourism would bring much more benefits.
This year, the flow of tourists on the coast of Issyk-Kul has sharply decreased. Tourists from neighboring countries, frightened by the situation in Kyrgyzstan, have chosen other destinations for their holidays. The stop was aggravated by rumors that groups of people who attack tourists from other states were formed on the territory of Kyrgyzstan.
Meanwhile, the government of Kyrgyzstan stated that the reason for the decline in the flow of tourists is that the Kazakh press is very actively engaged in “black PR”.
In particular, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Adakhan Madumarov assured that "rumors that there are mass robberies and there are groups that attack tourists are absolutely not true." According to him, “there are particular cases, regardless of where a person came from and how he is resting,” but “to say that there are groups that engage in robbery is not only black PR, but it is inhuman.”
Residents of the resort areas, tired of the changes that took place in the republic, counted on this year for the summer season, which always brought them big profits in the summer from holidaymakers in Issyk-Kul. Their main income is associated with the provision of services to tourists - from trade to transport. Moreover, Kazakhstanis traditionally accounted for more than 80% of their clientele. But apparently the echoes of the March revolution modified the attitude towards Kyrgyzstan in a negative direction. If we draw parallels with the system of international rating agencies assigning ratings, we can roughly indicate the change in the attitude of Kazakhstanis, mainly Almaty residents, to rest on Issyk-Kul from “positive stable” towards “unstable”. If earlier for tourists from Kazakhstan - both young people and families, it was a good and more economical alternative to rest in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, now many have chosen to spend more money for the sake of safety. Moreover, such a factor as the level of service is always not in favor of rest in Issyk-Kul.
Because of this, by the way, tours to Turkey have risen in price this year.
Both the revolution and rumors of mass beatings and robberies on the Issyk-Kul coast were "injected" into the image of Kyrgyzstan of the negative.
In this regard, the position of the Kyrgyz government is interesting. So, Mr. Madumarov, having complained to the mentality of Kazakhstanis and their illegibility, called on them to choose in favor of a good and inexpensive rest on the coast of Issyk-Kul, rather than leaving a lot of money abroad. At the same time, it sounded peculiar: if this year Kazakhstan tourists are “undersupplied”, this will be a small loss for the Kyrgyz people, but the former established economic ties will be lost, and tour operators will suffer greatly.
In this regard, Madumarov pins great hopes on the Kazakh press in order to highlight the real situation on the coast of Issyk-Kul to attract Kazakhstanis there.
On the territory of the Issyk-Kul region, this year there are about 142 tourist sites. 90% of all resort and sanatorium facilities are privately owned, 5% are trade unions, 2% are state-owned and 5-6 facilities are owned by Kazakhstani owners.
“Our hotel opened in August, the project was planned jointly with the Kazakh side. But, because of the “revolutionary events” in Kyrgyzstan, the Kazakh partners have abandoned the joint project, ”commented Aydar Tekebayev, owner of the Dolphin hotel. "This year it was planned to accept 85% of Kazakhstanis from the total number of holidaymakers, but only 10% of the expected number arrived."
The occupancy of boarding houses was only 25-50% of the total number of beds. While last year, holidaymakers from Kazakhstan accounted for 80% and 10% from Russia. For this year, the situation has changed dramatically. Due to low demand, prices for holidays were reduced by 20-30%.
“We have 400 places, now only 80 people are resting. The losses for 2005 amount to 2 million soms ($ 48,828), and the main income since the beginning of the year is 1 million 900 thousand ($ 4,6387) ”- Akzholta Nasriddinov, owner of the Ak-Bermet pension. “We hope for the remaining days of the season. Negative rumors are spreading in Almaty. In fact, there is a fairly calm and stable atmosphere. For all the time on the territory of our boarding house there was not a single offense. ”
In the general budget of the country, the share of Issyk-Kul oblast, over the past year, amounted to slightly more than 20 million soms ($ 48,881). For 2005, the income will be reduced by half.
The new government of Kyrgyzstan is seriously concerned about the decline in revenues of the tourist area.
“For the remaining 1.5 months we will try to catch up. Until the end of the season, we will make every effort to reach last year’s figure, ”Mr. Madumarov said.
However, there is no such item in the budget of Kyrgyzstan as a state investment in the development of tourism infrastructure facilities. But the budget of the state committee of tourism was about 6 million soms ($ 14,684).
“The amount is small, but we have already held a number of actions - participation in the world Berlin exhibition, exhibition in Budapest, Moscow, the fifth anniversary exhibition in Almaty. In May of this year, we held the 7th International Tourism Fair "Issyk-Kul 2005". A number of events are still being prepared, ”said the head of the tourism and sports department, Akbar Zigitov. “We also signed an agreement with the Swiss government for the development of tourism, and there we are creating a joint marketing fund, which will be about 200,000 Swiss francs. The money will be spent only on the implementation of promo-events. ” But for unknown reasons, Kazakhstan was not included there. At the same time, Mr. Zhigitov referred to the variability of the situation.
Also this year, the Kyrgyz government plans to conclude an agreement with the Russian government on opening the airport and creating direct flights Novosibirsk-Issyk-Kul and Moscow-Issyk-Kul. The project budget will be about $ 10 million. The government hopes that thanks to this, the influx of citizens from Russia will increase dramatically. At the same time, a draft resolution is being prepared on the effect of the internal passports of Russians in Kyrgyzstan.
The Vice Speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament (Jogorku Kenesh), Erkembek Alymbekov, said that the issue of creating a free economic zone in the Issyk-Kul region would be raised, with strict demands on the environment and improvement of existing legislation. However, according to the legislation of Kyrgyzstan, foreign citizens do not have the right to own objects. But the new government assured that an interdepartmental working group is currently working on the removal of this law.
And also at the moment, a new tax code and new economic concepts are being developed.
“I think that constructive cooperation with the government and the improvement of legislation will create the investment attractiveness of the country, taking into account the mistakes made by the previous government,” said Mr. Alymbekov.
To stabilize the situation inside the republic, the government attracted 150 cadets, police officers. Since May 1, all law enforcement officers have been raised by 50%, and since June 1, they have been raising salaries for medical personnel and teachers.
Mr. Madumarov gave assurances that there would be no offenses and illegal actions on the part of Kyrgyzstan, and he confirmed his promises by giving his telephone number and a telephone hotline, which the Ministry of Internal Affairs opened for victims.
Perhaps, when all the plans and projects of the new government of Kyrgyzstan are actually applied in practice, the flow of tourists on the coast of Issyk-Kul will increase again. However, the initial position of the Kyrgyz government, which accuses external forces of its troubles, is apparently not constructive. Instead of searching for guilty and aggressive statements, the new government probably should initiate a traditional anti-crisis PR program, demonstrating in practice its stated potential.
Currently, Kazakhstan is experiencing rapid development and economic recovery. But upon closer examination it becomes obvious that the “oasis of stability”, as it is sometimes called, Kazakhstan is only due to the growing export of raw materials and the inflow of currency into the country. As for Kazakhstan’s own development, here it is threatened by a number of factors, including literally dehydration.
The location in the center of the continent brings some benefits to the state. They consist mainly in the transit potential, including for the transportation of raw materials to some countries, for example, to China. In the conditions of the absence in the country of city-forming production of goods with high added value, agriculture still continues to play a large role in its economy. But for the successful development of animal husbandry and farming, as is well known, the availability of water resources is of great importance. And it is here that the geographical location of Kazakhstan is not so favorable.
As you know, Kazakhstan is in the zone of insufficient moisture. Water supply per inhabitant is 6 thousand cubic meters. m. per year or 37 thousand cubic meters. m. per square kilometer. This is the lowest figure in the CIS. Since almost half of all rivers, the main suppliers of moisture for agriculture, are formed on the territory of other states, as a result, some of them “come” to Kazakhstan, being already fairly “dried” by its neighbors. Thus, the water issue is increasingly becoming a source of disagreement between neighboring states in Central Asia, since this resource is crucial for all countries in the region. And because of the lack of water in the region, each country protects its own interests.
The most obvious problem of water use appears in relations between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. On the territory of Kyrgyzstan there are sources of rivers that supply water to a rather large region of Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan, without experiencing a significant water shortage, at the same time needs significant amounts of electricity. And its main source is hydroelectric power stations located on these rivers. The problem is that the main growth in demand for electricity in Kyrgyzstan is in wintertime. And for the operation of power plants in the winter, you need to accumulate a large amount of water in the summer.
Kazakhstan, however, needs more water for irrigation during the summer season. The consequence of such a contrast in interests is the situation when Kyrgyzstan floods Kazakhstan with water in winter and blocks access to it in summer. In the distant Soviet past, this problem was easily resolved, due to the free supply of a certain amount of electricity from one republic to another, in exchange for the water received in the right period of water. Now this option is not feasible.
The position of Kyrgyzstan on this issue is unambiguous - the other states should pay for the use of its water. Unlike neighboring countries, the country is distinguished by the lack of natural resources in its territory, and water is the only resource on which the economy relies.
In relations with other states, the situation with water looks even more complicated. Since the interests here are no longer two, but three or more participants. In particular, the Syr Darya River, which has a source in the foothills of the Pamirs in Tajikistan, flows through the territory of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and only then appears on the territory of Kazakhstan. And these republics also have the need to use most of the water of this river for the needs of agriculture. Especially high water consumption is required for irrigation of rice and cotton plantations cultivated by the neighbors of Kazakhstan.
Thus, every year water becomes an increasingly important resource for all states in Central Asia. And its deficit threatens stability not only in a single state, like Kazakhstan, but throughout the region. So far the conflict occurs only at the level of opinions and interests. But given the projected reduction in freshwater stocks in the world, in the future it may take completely different forms.
Recently disagreements have arisen over water and in relations between Kazakhstan and China. On its territory there is another important source of fresh water - the Black Irtysh River, which flows into Lake Zaisan, into the Irtysh River in Kazakhstan and in Russia. But at present, China itself is facing water shortages. As the country's population continues to grow, a huge amount of water is needed for the needs of agriculture, and it is necessary to develop and develop new territories.
There are large reservoirs on the territory of Kazakhstan - for example, the Caspian Sea, the Aral Sea, the lakes Balkhash, Alakol, etc. on desalinated water lives, for example, the main port of the country, the city of Aktau). The problems of the Aral Sea are known to the whole world - the reservoir is shallowing and also almost completely salty. Balkhash is only half freshwater, and Lake Alakol is located almost on the border with China, that is, too locally.
The importance of the problem of "dehydration" for Kazakhstan is increasing due to the fact that its solution depends on other states in the region. Any growing economy, as is known, requires not only energy, but also water reserves. And this factor in the near future may become negative for Kazakhstan.
Larisa Guseva, Head of the Department of Geoglobalistics and Economic Security, Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies:
“There are no threats of military conflicts over water. But water will serve as a source of permanent tension in relations between the states of the region. Solving the issues of joint water use takes time, and it is clear that the problem will not be solved in a year or two. ” As for the threat directly to Kazakhstan, here “the main blow is dealt to the economy and the environment. Due to water scarcity, the development of agriculture suffers. We have already lost the Small Aral, now we risk losing the Big One. ”
Nurbolat Masanov, political scientist, the independent information center “Politon”:
“Water can be a source of political conflict. In particular, between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Because, the state of Uzbekistan, being in the upper course of the Syr Darya, is forced to take part of the water to irrigate its own fields, and as a result, the Aral Sea, which is already in Kazakhstan, suffers. However, at the current level of the problem, the development of open conflict is excluded. There is a question of reasonable use of resources. ”