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Towards a More Sustainable Tourism Model in Central Asia

03/22/2021

The Central Asian countries present considerable opportunities to become major tourist destinations due to their unique cultural, historical, archaeological, and natural attractions and heritage. While Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have strategically utilised tourism to drive economic growth, the sector still faces numerous challenges, including lack of supply chain and logistics facilities, underdeveloped infrastructure and low standard services for tourists. In some countries, visa restrictions and high prices are also considered inhibitory factors for travellers.

The recent development and high potential of the tourism sector in the region provides an opportunity not to miss for setting-up and promoting a sustainable tourism model aimed at supporting growing local economies, respecting communities and protecting cultural and heritage sites from risks of overcrowding and from damage caused by natural disasters.

"Travel destinations that are becoming increasingly popular, such as those in Central Asian countries, offer unprecedented opportunities to become role models of sustainable tourism in the world," said Gian Andrea Garancini, MOST Project Manager.


The MOST project aims at promoting a new and well-structured model for sustainable tourism in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan that can contribute to preserving and strengthening local culture, heritage and traditions, while also protecting the natural environment. 

Since the project’s launch on 3 February 2020 in Tashkent, the project partners from EU countries (H.D.A., LCTA, European Profiles and APINTECH) organised and delivered a series of online training seminars in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan on the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) criteria for sustainable tourism, quality standards and certification methods, green procurement, environmental certification process and relevant tools for assisting data collection and management. Activities were carried out until the end of February, reaching a total of 380 tourism related MSMEs in Central Asian countries targeted by the project.

In December 2020, three round tables were organised in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to promote the dialogue between tourism enterprises and representatives of the government. The events brought together more than 95 participants offline and online, including local authorities, regional and national representatives, industry leaders, associations, higher education institutions, hotels, tourism and consulting companies, professionals and environmental experts. EU project partners also joined these discussions online and shared their experience and knowledge on key issues.

Since round table discussions will be organised on a yearly basis, these events are foreseen to become a valuable platform for strengthening the dialogue between business organisers, experts and government authorities with the aim of introducing new practices and technologies contributing to environmental protection and inclusive economic development. 

Working groups were created to strengthen collaborations and foster the exchange of international experiences, legislative frameworks, and good practices from each country.  Moreover, a lobby mechanism for the promotion of sustainable tourism and harmonization of accommodation facilities with international standards and HCMI (Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiatives), GSTC criteria and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives were developed.

In 2020, the MOST project website and Facebook page were also created to share project updates and results in English and Russian. 

During the second implementation year, MOST has planned to support targeted SMEs to move forward towards a more sustainable way of production, operation and delivery of their services. This will be achieved through obtaining appropriate equipment, marketing support, networking opportunities and transferring EU good practices. Additional round table discussions and workshops will also be organised for sustainable tourism planning. Moreover, partners are planning to install certification preparation software and identify financial resources from EU and other international donors.

As Mr. Jussi Narvi, Chargé d'Affaires of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Uzbekistan noted: "Tourism has a vast potential to generate jobs in Uzbekistan and more generally in Central Asia, but in order for it to be sustainable, tourists must return from their trips satisfied. They must have had the experience that they expected. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that there are clearly understood standards that are respected day in, day out, ensuring customers get what is promised. This is true for lodging, catering, experiences and ecological impact: A disappointed customer will not come back and will spread a bad image, whereas a satisfied customer becomes a good-will ambassador of the host."

Project website: https://mostcentral-asia.eu

Project Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MOSTSwitchAsiaProject


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This publication is produced with support from the EU-funded SWITCH-Asia Programme.
The content and opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the EU or SWITCH-Asia and no official endorsement should be inferred