How much did the Andijan tragedy cost for the tourist business of Uzbekistan?
Soleh Yahyaev (Samarkand)
The abundance of national parks and reserves, numerous architectural and historical monuments, modern networks of hotels, tourist complexes, engineering and transport communications are all on their face to turn this land into a tourist Mecca. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has determined the capacity of Uzbekistan’s tourism resources at one million people per year. Such predictions also fascinate local businessmen. A new private hotel “Omar Khayyam” in the city of Bukhara, like many of the 163 other hotels throughout Uzbekistan, were built to receive foreign tourists. “A lot is being done for the development of tourism, a lot is invested in this business. Therefore, in the future it is a city and in general a country will achieve prosperity and development. We hope that everything will be fine ”- at first glance, with uncertainty, says Mehriniso Ashurova, who has just started working in the tourism business. She is a manager, administrator and guide translator in one person. Her hotel spent this season half empty. So you have to save. What will happen next year, she does not know.
The potential and reality of the tourism business vary greatly. In 2004, according to official figures, over 250 thousand tourists visited Uzbekistan. This is four times less than the potential resource.
Just a few steps from the private hotel "Omar Khayyam" and the historical monument "Minori Kalon" is the creative workshop of the craftsman Bakhshillo Jumayev. He draws famous Bukhara designs for national robes and skullcaps. The craftsman’s wife and her students embroider these patterns with gilded threads. Every day, the Bakhshillo family in the hope of selling products to tourists opens its stall. Today, like many long days of recent months, they have not sold a single product. This is after the events in Andijan.
“Our creative workshop is located in the center of both the tourist route and all the historical ensembles of the city of Bukhara. Therefore, visiting our tourists is very important for our work. And, therefore, everything that is happening lately, in particular, the Andijan events, is very disturbing to us. Immediately after the Andijan events, the arrival of tourists has decreased since the 14th. And we make souvenirs for foreigners, ”says an artisan from Bukhara Jumayev.
The decline in tourist interest in Uzbekistan was strongly reflected not only in the business of this artisan, but also in the fate of 15,000 professionals working in the field of tourism. Not to mention the many thousands of army artisans, museum staff, etc.
The force majeure circumstance is what the specialists refer to the post-Uzbek state of Uzbek tourism. But to speak openly about the damage of the Andijan massacre to the tourist business to fear. This is indicated only by foreign experts.
“You know, I spoke with travel companies and hotel administrators, talked with tour operators from abroad. And what I heard, the cancellations were! So there were fewer tourists than last year, ”says Andrea Levenberger from Germany. She was sent to Uzbekistan by the German tourist organization SWISS. “Two types of tourists come here, group and there are individuals. Individuals were less. And at the expense of groups, the situation is this: due to massive cancellations, foreign tour operators, in the end, it was not profitable to send groups. So if you planned seven groups, then sent only three or four groups of tourists. Tourists in the world go where there is a 100%, even a 1000% guarantee that nothing bad will happen there, ”says Andrea Levenberg. For German tour operators, this woman is a kind of “barometer”, and for Uzbek specialists a consultant and assistant. According to her advice, they design hotels, create designs and organize tours. So, it helps to create the image of Uzbekistan for German tourists.
“After the Andijan events there was such a wave in the media of Europe: everyone wrote directly about the Andijan tragedy, and everyone in Europe somehow read these words or heard these words - Andijan. And to be honest, they didn’t know exactly what was happening there or what to think. Just thought in this country is not calm. Meaning is dangerous for us. It means that we will not travel! ”Said Levenberg in an interview six months after the events in Andijan.
According to statistics, 65% of tourists come to Uzbekistan from Europe and America. According to Andrea, the Andijan events are a disaster for the tourism business. Today it is necessary to change the attitude towards this country and improve its image. According to Andrea Levenberg, this can be achieved after tourists from the West understand that not terrorists live in Uzbekistan, but ordinary people, that there are tourist services in this country and that life goes on.
Profit from the tourism industry accounts for 0.6% of income from the total gross national product (GDP) of Uzbekistan. According to government experts, this is a very small return. So, even if there were losses in profits, they were not very significant.
For more than three hundred travel companies and thousands of artisans such as Bakhshillo from Bukhara, this year did not go as they had planned.
“As you can see, we have to finish the creative workshop. And of course it is not a secret, all this is connected with costs. The more tourists will come, the sooner we could complete its construction, ”the craftsman Bakhshillo notes with annoyance. He postponed major repairs. In the meantime, rare extreme tourists walk along the monuments and streets of the future tourist Mecca. Or just those who work here.
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According to various data of international human rights organizations, up to one thousand civilians were killed during the well-known Andijan events. The government claims that this was a “militant raid”. Nevertheless, according to eyewitness accounts and a few representatives of the Western media, there was a shooting by government troops of a peaceful demonstration. Before this, attacks were already taking place on the Prosecutor General’s Office, on law enforcement officers, both in Tashkent itself and in the capital’s suburb, in the village of Yalangach. During all these clashes, the militants tried to do everything possible so as not to hurt the civilian population.