Aziz Abduhakimov: Welcome to Uzbekistan
“The tourist should travel and not wander among the bodies of the interior,” President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said at a video conference on February 22 devoted to a critical analysis of the effectiveness of measures taken to increase the flow of foreign touri
In the presidential decree “On measures to ensure the accelerated development of the tourism industry of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, signed on 2 December 2016, tourism is defined as a strategic branch of the economy of our country. The Program of Priority Measures for the Development of Tourism for 2018-2019 was approved. In February this year, four important documents related to the development of tourism were adopted. Those normative acts set the priority tasks for addressing the issues facing the industry, stepping up the travel industry’s potential, and providing many benefits and preferences for the further development of inner tourism.
Today, transformation in the sector is conspicuous. The nation becomes more hospitable and friendly towards tourists. Among other things, one would like to note the bright events that accompany these serious events and make them extraordinary, memorable. They are in the center of our interview with the chairman of the State Committee for the Development of Tourism, Aziz Abdukhakimov.
- Aziz Abdukaharovich, it was somehow surprising to see you meeting the first flights of planes from Israel, Indonesia, Singapore, Turkey and Japan after the visafree regime for citizens of these countries was established for a period of 30 days. Why was it important for you?
- I am deeply convinced that any norm of legislation, especially in the tourism industry, will work much more efficiently if the process of its fulfillment is filled with the warmth of the best traditions of hospitality. The Uzbek people have always been famed for their hospitality, which was expressed exclusively in the human attitude to the guest. To postpone one’s urgent dealings and concentrate first of all to making everything possible to please the guest as soon as one becomes aware of a forthcoming visit, caring and staying with them until farewell is a characteristic feature of the traditions of our multiethnic people.
On the scale of the entire country, the whole complex of measures for the development of tourism infrastructure, currently being implemented in Uzbekistan, is made to create conditions for tourists not to feel uncomfortable and feel the care at every turn.
Why was it important for me to go to the airport and personally meet the first citizens of the countries that arrived in Uzbekistan with whom our country abolished the visa regime? If we compare yesterday and today, we will see how the tourist infrastructure has changed and is still changing. We now have more and more conveniences for tourists. And these flights were almost in the first days after the issuance of regulations, when little else has changed. And this vacuum needed to be filled with something kind, memorable for all. Therefore, as the chief of the country’s tourism administration, I came out to meet these dear guests. The committee tried to make these minutes bright. In my opinion, everything went well - our national chapans, flowers, friendly shakes and short exchanges of opinions made the arrival of these guests in our country a bright occasion that did not go unnoticed by anyone.
Let guests see and know that they are welcomed here; here they will be accepted as close and best friends. And after all, they are really our best friends, with whom we are connected very much. Look who arrived on the first flights. A lot of emigrants to Israel flew by plane, wishing to visit their relatives, while guests from Turkey perceive Uzbekistan as the historical homeland of their ancestors. For Indonesians, Malaysians, Singaporeans there are many sacred shrines, for Koreans and Japanese our country is important as a center that centuries ago played an important role in the development of their religion.
It was impossible not to take advantage of the opportunity and once again invite everyone to Uzbekistan!
- A wide range of infrastructure development activities is to be implemented. And the first step has already been taken - tax and customs privileges for businesses who will build the necessary infrastructure. But time does not wait...
- I think the privileges and preferences granted will not make us wait long for the results. Tourists should feel the care. Therefore, we are not idle: we are implementing projects that can be realized now.
Here, for example, in tourist cities, we introduce a service for car loans. The main thing is that the tourist has an international driving license. Tourists like to photograph everything from a height. And we created this opportunity with entrepreneurs in Bukhara - by launching a balloon. Today, the tourist is waiting for action. To please them, we started to stage theatrical shows in tourist cities, the plot of which is history. In order to learn more about the sights, today you do not need a guide; all the information on most facilities can be obtained on the cell phone using the QR-code system. And this is only a small part of the innovations introduced over the past few months. There will be more, we are working on it.
- In the near future, a major construction of new hotels, cafes, restaurants, parks should unfold... But will not it turn out that for the most of the time they will be empty and just not justify themselves?
- No, this will hardly be the case. We are now implementing new sets of measures that will facilitate a multiple growth in inflowing guests from abroad. Moreover, our citizens themselves will be more active in traveling. The need for hospitality is very big. Already we feel their shortage. At the same time, to help owners of these facilities of tourist infrastructure, we implement a set of activities that will evenly distribute the load, so that everyone would feel comfortable.
- The President spoke about the need to expand the promotion of tourism products abroad. What do you think, but for greater efficiency, is it not time to change the approaches to this task?
- Oh, sure. And this approach should be multifaceted. For example, if we are now with you from the same position to shoot a particular landscape, then we will get similar photos, but the audience for these pictures will be different. Therefore, we will now most actively promote domestic and foreign journalists, bloggers, representatives of all creative professions who want to create here in Uzbekistan. So they do not create, in their works there will be a part of our country, which means that an additional reason for them is to say a thousand times: it was in Uzbekistan!
For example, the other day we provided full support to the Russian rapper to shoot a clip in Bukhara for his new song. Just imagine how many young people around the world will see this video. And I’m sure there will always be those who want to visit the places of filming.
We generally had a lot of prohibitions on photography and video shooting. We are now removing many restrictions. For example, it is unclear why it was impossible to be photographed in the subway metro, when all its pictures are on the internet… But every new photo made in the underground by a tourist will contribute to the country’s image and recognition.
We will work to make our tourist brand more famous. We have provided the entrepreneurs with the privileges that all the souvenirs and printed products intended for travelers should be an image of the country’s tour brand, our business card.