Every megapolis in the world has certain symbols, at the mention of which even a child will involuntarily give out a number of associations: for example, Paris - the Eiffel Tower, Los Angeles - Hollywood, Moscow - the Kremlin ... etc. You can continue this list indefinitely ...
And what symbol emerges in the memory of tourists at the mention of the city of Almaty? Flea market!
Ever since the times of the Soviet Union, Almaty was famous for its, without exaggeration, unique sights, including the Medeo high-mountain skating rink, the Charyn canyon, and the Chimbulak ski resort. Is it possible today to say with confidence that it is the spectacle of the majestic panorama of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains that attracts new tourists? No doubt it is. The only question is how much of the visitors will devote most of their time to the contemplation of the beauties of our city. If the popularity of resorts that have arisen in places of combination of unique climatic conditions is quite understandable, then the reasons that motivate people to go to Almaty cannot but surprise. So, for the majority of people in the City of apples (this is an exemplary translation of the word Almaty, famous for its famous aport, although it has been almost no apples here for a long time), pilgrimage to places of tourist worship has rather a side character.
Most prefer, barely setting foot on the Almaty land, to direct their feet in the direction of the “worship” object, no less famous in Kazakhstan, a complex of urban clothing markets, in common people better known as “Flea market”. It is incredible, but true: the residents of Kazakhstan and foreign citizens, including those who happened to be in the will of Almaty, first of all prefer to visit the notorious clothing market and spend a certain amount on Chinese-Turkish goods. Not having time to relax from the road, they delicately inquire about where the coveted place is - the flea market. And only the second point of visit for many guests of our city are local attractions. Visitors prefer, without further ado, to leave all the cash between the rows of clothing markets than to spend them on a cultural and entertainment program.
And, having only acquired the goods ordered by numerous relatives, the tourist finally decides to get acquainted with the cultural program offered by numerous travel companies of our city.
The tourist mecca of the city of Almaty - the flea market, not only hospitably receives tourists, but also gives jobs to migrant workers. No special studies have been conducted on the “flea market”, but according to approximate calculations one can estimate the volume of this market only in Almaty - at about $ 3 billion.
Now in Almaty flea market 28 markets. The largest is Bolashak. It has 15 rows, and in each row an average of 370 "boutiques". That is about 5 thousand entrepreneurs with an average income of $ 1000-1500 per month working in this market alone. In the New Year season, this figure increases to 200 thousand people. In total, it is possible to come to such figures - about 150,000 people work in a flea market only in Almaty. Accordingly, the cumulative monthly income of the flea market is $ 225 million, or $ 7.5 million per day. In a year - almost 3 billion dollars. This is without taking into account seasonal sales, completely black "subsections" of the flea market - such as "spontaneous" rows outside the walls of the market, along the highway, etc.
To imagine the growth of flea market revenues, just look at the following figures - 5-6 years ago containers in the markets cost an average of $ 3 thousand, now - $ 100-150 thousand. You can also compare with the official figures for retail sales across the country - its volume amounted to $ 12.7 billion in 2006. In other words, a flea market is a quarter of what is sold in retail throughout the country.
Other figures are noteworthy - according to analysts, the volume of "black cash" and bribes - that is, sales without coupons, etc. at the Almaty flea market is more than $ 1 million per day (!) or $ 360 million per year.
The main suppliers of goods for the flea market traditionally remain China, Turkey and Russia. Many products with a label made in China, by the way, are made in Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan. The fact is that in Kazakhstan there is a very strange tax on production - in fact, destroying its own production, which is why many manufacturers are forced to go into the shadows and work “for import”.
Meanwhile, tourism is one of the most profitable areas of business, and Kazakhstan possessing a unique natural landscape, as they say, is a sin not to use it. In general, in 2005, Kazakhstan’s income from tourism activities amounted to approximately $ 250 million, and in the form of taxes, the state budget received more than about $ 50 million.
According to statistics, in Kazakhstan in recent years there has been a steady increase in inbound tourism. So, if in 2002 the country was visited by 3.7 million guests, then in 2004 their number increased to 4.3 million, and in 2005 it amounted to 4.4 million. It is also interesting that 60% of tourists entering Kazakhstan, be sure to visit Almaty.
Volumes of inbound tourism in Kazakhstan are growing. The overwhelming majority of tourists arrive in Kazakhstan from Kyrgyzstan, China, Uzbekistan, Russia, Turkey, as well as Germany and the USA. Let's make a reservation that it is officially considered to be a tourist of any foreign citizen who crossed the border of Kazakhstan. But only 3% of foreigners come to Kazakhstan for educational purposes, or what is called rest. The remaining 97% visit Kazakhstan with “business visits”. In fact, most of them are “shuttle traders” - for bulk purchases at the flea market and migrant workers who come to work, mainly for construction projects.
Contrary to the plans of the government intending to make Almaty the financial center of Central Asia, the “City of apples” is slowly becoming the region’s largest shopping center. However, it is hardly worth surprising. Against the background of high taxes on imports in Uzbekistan, historical prerequisites in the form of the legendary Silk Road, proximity to China, visa-free travel with Turkey and others. Almaty attracts more and more “shuttle traders”, for which it is almost the only chance to survive.