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Tourism in Kazakhstan

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Tourism in Kazakhstan is big business. But why is this industry so important and how should it best be managed? Read on to find out…

Kazakhstan geography

Kazakhstan is a landlocked country located in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. It is the ninth-largest country in the world by land area, covering approximately 2.7 million square kilometers.

Kazakhstan’s terrain is diverse, with a mix of flat plains, plateaus, and mountain ranges. The country is bordered by Russia to the north, China to the east, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the west.

The northern part of Kazakhstan is dominated by the vast, flat Kazakh Steppe, which covers about one-third of the country’s total land area. The steppe is rich in mineral resources, including oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium.

The central part of the country is characterized by a series of low-lying plateaus, such as the Turgai Plateau and the Ulytau Plateau. The region is home to several large rivers, including the Ishim, Tobol, and Irtysh.

The southern part of Kazakhstan is dominated by the Tien Shan and Altai Mountains, which are home to some of the country’s highest peaks, including Khan Tengri and Mount Belukha. The region is also home to the Lake Balkhash, one of the largest lakes in Central Asia.

Kazakhstan has a harsh continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. The country experiences extreme temperature variations, with temperatures ranging from -40°C in the winter to 40°C in the summer.

Overall, Kazakhstan’s geography is characterized by vast, open spaces, rugged mountains, and a diverse mix of flora and fauna, making it a unique and fascinating destination for visitors.

Tourism in Kazakhstan 

Kazakhstan’s tourism industry is still in its early stages of development, but it has the potential to become a major player in the Central Asian region. With its diverse landscape, rich cultural heritage, and emerging modern cities, Kazakhstan offers a range of attractions for visitors.

Tourism in Kazakhstan

The country’s capital, Nur-Sultan, formerly known as Astana, is a modern metropolis that showcases futuristic architecture, including the Bayterek Tower and the Astana Opera House. Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, is known for its stunning natural setting, with the Tien Shan Mountains serving as a backdrop. The city is also home to numerous museums, galleries, and restaurants that offer a taste of Kazakhstan’s unique.

Statistics about tourism Kazakhstan

Now, lets demonstrate how significant tourism in Kazakhstan is but highlighting some of the key statistics:

In 2019, Kazakhstan welcomed over 8.2 million tourists, an increase of 10.3% compared to the previous year.

The tourism industry contributes to around 3.8% of Kazakhstan’s GDP and provides employment for around 600,000 people.

The majority of international tourists to Kazakhstan come from neighboring countries such as Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The top five tourist destinations in Kazakhstan are Almaty, Astana, Shymkent, Karaganda, and Atyrau.

Kazakhstan’s tourism industry is mainly focused on cultural and eco-tourism, with popular attractions including historical landmarks, national parks, and traditional festivals.

The average length of stay for international tourists in Kazakhstan is 6.1 days.

The most common means of transportation for tourists in Kazakhstan is by air, with international flights arriving at Almaty International Airport and Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport.

Kazakhstan has a well-developed hospitality industry, with over 2,400 accommodation facilities including hotels, resorts, and guesthouses.

The government of Kazakhstan is actively promoting tourism as a priority sector for economic growth, and has introduced measures to facilitate tourism development such as simplified visa procedures for foreign visitors.

Kazakhstan offers a range of attractions for tourists, from ancient landmarks to modern cities and stunning natural landscapes. Here are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Kazakhstan:

Charyn Canyon: Located in southeastern Kazakhstan, Charyn Canyon is a stunning natural formation that stretches for over 80 kilometers. Visitors can hike through the canyon, explore its colorful rock formations, and camp overnight in the wilderness.

Tourism in Kazakhstan

Medeu Skating Rink: Located just outside of Almaty, Medeu Skating Rink is the highest skating rink in the world, situated at an altitude of 1,691 meters. Visitors can enjoy ice skating and other winter sports, as well as stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Bayterek Tower: Located in the capital city of Nur-Sultan, Bayterek Tower is a 97-meter tall monument that symbolizes the unity of the Kazakh people. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the city.

Kolsai Lakes: Located in the Tien Shan Mountains in southeastern Kazakhstan, Kolsai Lakes are a series of three alpine lakes that offer stunning scenery and hiking opportunities. The lakes are surrounded by forests, meadows, and towering peaks.

Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve: Located in southern Kazakhstan, Aksu-Zhabagly is the country’s oldest and largest nature reserve, covering over 130,000 hectares. Visitors can explore the reserve’s diverse landscapes, which include mountain ranges, canyons, and grasslands, and spot rare wildlife such as snow leopards and ibex.

Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi: Located in the city of Turkestan, the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important religious monuments in Central Asia. The mausoleum was built in the 14th century and features stunning architecture and intricate decorative details.

Big Almaty Lake: Located in the mountains just outside of Almaty, Big Almaty Lake is a beautiful alpine lake that offers hiking trails and stunning views of the surrounding peaks. The lake is also a popular spot for stargazing.

The Khan Shatyr: Located in Nur-Sultan, the Khan Shatyr is a unique shopping and entertainment center that features a giant transparent tent structure, a beach resort, and a range of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.

Shymbulak Ski Resort: Located in the Tien Shan Mountains just outside of Almaty, Shymbulak Ski Resort is one of the top ski destinations in Kazakhstan. Visitors can enjoy skiing and snowboarding, as well as stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Astana Opera House: Located in Nur-Sultan, the Astana Opera House is a stunning architectural landmark that hosts a range of cultural performances, including opera, ballet, and classical music. The building features a distinctive curved roof and intricate decorative details.

Kazakhstan is a country with a diverse geography and rich cultural heritage, offering a variety of tourism experiences. Here are some of the popular types of tourism in Kazakhstan:

Cultural Tourism: Kazakhstan has a rich cultural heritage with a blend of Central Asian, Persian, and Russian cultures. Visitors can explore the ancient Silk Road cities of Almaty, Turkestan, and Shymkent, visit the historical museums and art galleries, and experience traditional Kazakh music, dance, and cuisine.

Adventure Tourism: Kazakhstan has a diverse geography, including snow-capped mountains, vast steppe grasslands, and pristine lakes. This makes it a great destination for adventure tourism, including mountaineering, trekking, skiing, hunting, and fishing.

Ecotourism: Kazakhstan has several nature reserves, including Altyn Emel National Park and Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve, which offer visitors a chance to experience the country’s unique flora and fauna, including rare species such as the saiga antelope and Siberian lynx.

Health and Wellness Tourism: Kazakhstan has several hot springs and mineral baths, which are believed to have therapeutic properties. Visitors can also enjoy traditional spa treatments, such as aromatherapy massages and herbal saunas.

Business Tourism: Kazakhstan is rapidly developing as a business hub in Central Asia, with several international conferences and trade fairs being held in the country. This has led to the development of modern conference facilities and luxury hotels in cities such as Astana and Almaty.

Culinary Tourism: Kazakh cuisine is a fusion of Central Asian and Russian dishes, with a strong emphasis on meat and dairy products. Visitors can experience traditional Kazakh cuisine, including dishes such as beshbarmak (boiled meat with noodles) and kumys (fermented mare’s milk)

Tourism in Kazakhstan

The economic impacts of tourism Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth-largest country by land area, has in recent years made significant strides in developing its tourism sector, recognising its potential as a key pillar for economic diversification. The economic impacts of tourism in the country can be analysed from various angles:

  1. Direct Contribution to GDP: Tourism in Kazakhstan has become a notable contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The revenues generated from foreign tourists, as well as domestic tourism, play a role in bolstering the nation’s economy.
  2. Employment: The tourism sector has become a major job provider. From hotels and restaurants to tour operators and transportation services, the wide-ranging tourism value chain offers employment opportunities for a substantial segment of the population.
  3. Foreign Exchange Earnings: With tourists coming in, especially from neighbouring countries like Russia, China, and Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan benefits from the influx of foreign currency. This helps in balancing the country’s trade deficit and stabilising the local currency.
  4. Infrastructure Development: The government, recognising the potential of tourism, has invested in developing infrastructure tailored to tourists. This includes not just transportation (airports, road networks) but also facilities like hotels, resorts, and cultural centres. Such developments, while aimed at tourists, often benefit local residents and other sectors of the economy as well.
  5. Stimulation of Other Sectors: Tourism in Kazakhstan has a multiplier effect on the local economy. Tourists’ expenditure stimulates the retail sector, agriculture (through increased demand for local produce), real estate (through the development of hotels and resorts), and various other sectors indirectly linked to tourism.
  6. Diversification of the Economy: Historically reliant on its vast natural resources, especially oil and gas, Kazakhstan’s emphasis on tourism has allowed it to diversify its income sources. This diversification helps the country hedge against fluctuations in global commodity prices.

However, while tourism brings numerous economic benefits, it’s essential to manage growth sustainably. Over-reliance on tourism can make the economy vulnerable to global downturns or changes in travel patterns. Additionally, unchecked growth can strain local resources and infrastructure.

In conclusion, while tourism in Kazakhstan has presented multiple economic opportunities, the long-term vision for the sector should balance growth aspirations with sustainable practices to ensure prolonged benefits for the country.

The social impacts of tourism Kazakhstan

Now lets take a look at the social impacts:

Positive impacts:

Job creation: Tourism in Kazakhstan can create new job opportunities for locals, especially in the service sector. This can lead to an increase in employment and income levels.

Cultural exchange: Tourism in Kazakhstan can facilitate cultural exchange between locals and visitors. This can help to promote understanding and tolerance between different cultures.

Infrastructure development: To cater to the needs of tourists, infrastructure such as roads, airports, and hotels may be developed or improved. This can have positive spillover effects for local communities as well.

Preservation of heritage: As tourists show interest in cultural and natural heritage sites, there may be an increased effort to preserve and protect them for future generations.

Negative impacts:

Cultural erosion: As tourism in Kazakhstan grows, the influx of visitors can lead to a loss of traditional cultures and practices. Locals may begin to adopt more “tourist-friendly” behaviors and customs, which can erode their authentic identity.

Displacement of locals: As tourism in Kazakhstan expands, there may be pressure on land and resources, leading to the displacement of locals from their homes and communities.

Environmental degradation: The increased traffic and development associated with tourism can have negative environmental impacts, such as pollution and deforestation.

Price inflation: As tourists are willing to pay higher prices for goods and services, this can lead to price inflation, making it harder for locals to afford basic necessities.

Overall, while tourism in Kazakhstan can bring many benefits, it is important to manage its growth and minimise its negative impacts on local communities and the environment.

The environmental impacts of tourism Kazakhstan

Tourism can have significant environmental impacts in Kazakhstan, both positive and negative. Here are some examples:

Positive impacts:

Conservation and preservation: Tourism in Kazakhstan can raise awareness about the importance of preserving natural and cultural heritage sites, leading to greater conservation efforts.

Environmental education: Visitors can learn about local ecosystems and conservation practices through tourism activities, creating opportunities for environmental education and awareness-raising.

Sustainable practices: The tourism industry can promote sustainable practices such as energy-efficient buildings, waste reduction, and responsible water use, setting an example for other sectors.

Negative impacts:

Pollution: Tourism in Kazakhstan can contribute to increased pollution, especially in areas with high visitor numbers. This can include air pollution from transportation and emissions from hotels and restaurants.

Waste generation: As tourist numbers increase, so too does waste generation, including plastic waste, food waste, and other forms of litter. Improper waste management can have negative impacts on the environment and wildlife.

Habitat destruction: As tourism in Kazakhstan expands, there may be pressure to develop new infrastructure, leading to habitat destruction and fragmentation, which can negatively impact wildlife populations.

Water use: Tourism activities such as swimming pools, golf courses, and spas can consume significant amounts of water, leading to water shortages and environmental degradation in areas with limited water resources.

Overall, while tourism in Kazakhstan can bring economic benefits to Kazakhstan, it is important to manage its growth and minimize its negative impacts on the environment. This can be achieved through the adoption of sustainable tourism practices, such as eco-tourism, and the implementation of policies and regulations to mitigate negative impacts.

The types of tourists travel to Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan attracts a diverse range of tourists, including:

Adventure tourists: Kazakhstan’s vast landscapes, including the Altai Mountains, the Caspian Sea, and the Great Steppe, make it an attractive destination for adventure tourists seeking activities such as trekking, mountaineering, and skiing.

Cultural tourists: Kazakhstan has a rich cultural heritage, influenced by its nomadic past and the influence of the Silk Road. Visitors interested in history and culture can explore ancient cities and historic sites, as well as experience traditional Kazakh customs and traditions.

Business tourists: Kazakhstan’s strong economy and strategic location make it an attractive destination for business travelers. The country is home to a number of international companies and has a growing technology sector.

Nature tourists: Kazakhstan’s diverse ecosystems, including deserts, forests, and wetlands, make it a popular destination for nature lovers. Visitors can enjoy wildlife watching, birding, and ecotourism activities.

Medical tourists: Kazakhstan has a growing medical tourism industry, offering affordable and high-quality medical services such as dental care, plastic surgery, and wellness programs.

Religious tourists: Kazakhstan is home to a variety of religious sites, including mosques, churches, and synagogues. Visitors can explore the country’s diverse religious traditions and learn about its history of religious tolerance.

Overall, Kazakhstan offers a variety of attractions and activities for a diverse range of tourists, from adventure seekers to those interested in culture and history.

FAQs about tourism in Kazakhstan

Now that we know a bit more about tourism in Kazakhstan, lets answer some of the most common questions on this topic:

What is the best time to visit Kazakhstan?

The best time to visit Kazakhstan is during the spring and fall seasons, when the weather is mild and comfortable. The months of April, May, September, and October are ideal for outdoor activities and sightseeing.

Do I need a visa to travel to Kazakhstan?

It depends on your country of citizenship. Citizens of some countries can enter Kazakhstan without a visa, while others need to apply for a visa in advance. You can check the visa requirements on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan.

What is the local currency in Kazakhstan?

The local currency in Kazakhstan is the Kazakhstani tenge (KZT).

Is it safe to travel to Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan is generally a safe country to travel to, with low levels of crime and violence. However, travelers should exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings, especially in crowded areas and tourist sites.

What languages are spoken in Kazakhstan?

The official language of Kazakhstan is Kazakh, but Russian is also widely spoken, especially in urban areas.

What are the main attractions in Kazakhstan?

The main attractions in Kazakhstan include the cities of Almaty and Astana, the Altai Mountains, the Caspian Sea, the Great Steppe, and historic sites such as the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi and the Tamgaly Petroglyphs.

Can I drink tap water in Kazakhstan?

It is not recommended to drink tap water in Kazakhstan. Bottled water is widely available and affordable.

What is the local cuisine in Kazakhstan?

The local cuisine in Kazakhstan includes dishes such as beshbarmak (boiled meat served over noodles), kuyrdak (a meat dish with potatoes and onions), and plov (rice pilaf with meat and vegetables).

What is the local etiquette in Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan has a traditional and conservative culture, and visitors are expected to dress modestly and respect local customs and traditions. It is also customary to remove shoes before entering someone’s home.

What is the transportation system like in Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan has a well-developed transportation system, with options including buses, trains, taxis, and domestic flights. Public transportation is affordable and widely available in major cities.

To conclude: Tourism in Kazakhstan

As you can see, tourism in Kazakhstan is a very important industry that brings many benefits to the local area and community. However, in order to ensure that tourism is sustainable, it must be carefully managed.

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