Tourism industry

Tourism is an important contributor to the economy of Turkmenistan. Although the figures account for a small portion of the country's GDP, the potential for growth is contingent on the further development of the industry to stimulate incoming and domestic tourism.

The capital city, Ashgabat, received the most investment in tourism infrastructure over the review period. As a result rural areas have suffered because of insufficient financial flows. Accommodation in rural places is either lacking or well below standard.

More investment in regional areas outside of the capital city is required to improve the infrastructure. One of the initiatives to tackle this issue is the development of ecotourism and horse riding, hiking and camping.

Turkmenistan is located on the famous Silk Road route and hence, is capable of attracting many tourists. Moreover, this is the most unexplored country in Central Asia with huge potential for adventure and ecological tourism. Despite the fact that tourist arrivals increased over the review period, the total number is far less than the country is capable of receiving.

Turkmenistan remains by far the most unexplored country along the Silk Road. In the rainbow of colours that characterizes this vast strip of land stretching between China and Persia, Turkmen culture has preserved many nomadic and Shaman traditions. Linking Afghan, Persian and the sophisticated settled cultures of the Central Asian Khanates, many items and periods associated with Silk Road cultures have emerged from the largely nomadic Turcoman societies. This is evident in Turkmenistan's fascinating handicrafts, as well as its strong attraction towards mysticism and local customs and beliefs associated with other Silk Road cultures.

Driven by a steady increase in inbound and domestic tourism, tourism receipts have grown over the review period. However, outgoing tourism expenditures decreased overall, as a result of the overall decline in the number of outgoing tourists attributable to the increased poverty in the country. Although outgoing tourism expenditures decreased, the balance of payment figure remained negative in 2005 due to the unrealised potential of inbound and domestic tourism. This pattern is projected to continue until the end of the forecast period even though incoming and domestic tourism expenditures are projected to increase. It should be noted, however, that a large percentage of outgoing travellers are business tourists whose expenses are paid for by their companies.

 

Development of cultural tourism 

Indeed, of all parts of the ancient world where early civilisations developed, Central Asia remains the least known. Ancient Turkmenistan is where the most evidence for these early civilisations have been discovered-itself one of the least known parts of the world. Turkmenistan has some of the most fascinating monuments of Central Asia's pre-Islamic and Islamic architecture. Turkmenistan's heritage sites are beyond comparison not only for their antiquity, but also for their present condition - almost unspoilt by later reconstruction and restoration. The tourists ou can stroll around the magnificent city-sites of ancient Merv and Nisa, breathe history in the ancient capital of Khorezm, Kunya Urgench, or join the archaeologists and witness history in the newly discovered writings of Zoroastrian Margush. Come and visit the Sufi philosophers' shrines of Meane Baba or Abu-Fazid in their simplicity and ancient beauty and travel through time amidst the ruins of medieval Dehistan in the western plains of the country.

 

Development of Ecotourism

Tourism in Turkmenistan is mainly concentrated in Ashgabat with few overnight visits to other towns; Ashgabat offers the best-known places of interest and the most accommodation with acceptable standards. Most rural areas, however, cannot benefit from tourism, as the infrastructure remains undeveloped.

Turkmenistan has been recommended by a number of international organizations as a potential ecotourism destination. The development of ecotourism in Turkmenistan is likely since this type of tourism would not only attract more visitors and ensure repeat visits, it would also benefit the communities in rural areas, and provide financial flows to the historical/cultural/natural places of interest. However, the development of ecotourism would require the structured training of necessary skills in rural communities. Moreover, significant improvements to the travel accommodation and transportation infrastructure are required.

 

Touristic zone "Avaza"

 

A year has passed since Avaza National Project was launched

Multi-storey hotels resembling palaces, and small cottages for those fond of domestic comfort… Stadiums, golf clubs, tennis courts, and swimming pools… Leisure amusements and vanguard disco clubs… Luxurious floating restaurants and hospitable mini cafes of the East … All of that is compactly located on a small part of the land neighboring with the azure sea, famous desert and exotic mountains. Are these marvelous combinations possible? One can imagine the reality of such a picture clearly even today when watching new buildings springing up on the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea.

A year later, Avaza is the most rapidly implemented project in Turkmenistan. The Government attaches exceptional significance to construction of the facilities and development of the infrastructure in Avaza so long as the world-class resort on the Turkmen coast of the Caspian Sea is called upon to become, as it is often said there, an international tourist paradise. Completion of the project can boost the investment attractiveness and foster intensification of economic partnership between Turkmenistan and the world business community.

For the truth's sake it should be noted that some foreign analysts expressed doubts on the local legislative framework supposedly unable to provide solid legal guarantees to investors. Though, in early October 2007 President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov approved the Law of Turkmenistan "On Amendments and Additions to Some Legislative Acts of Turkmenistan" laying the concrete legal foundation for implementing the public policy aimed at the development of international economic cooperation. Substantial benefits are provided, therefore to mention them again would be deemed necessary.

First, this is simplification of the visa process for tourists and foreign specialists working in this economic zone. Free currency conversion is guaranteed for investors and the unhampered transfer of earnings overseas after payment of taxes.

The land lots will be allocated to foreign companies for the construction of tourist facilities for the 40-year term - without charging any lease payments within the construction and operating period.

Exemption from customs duties for equipment and materials imported to the country as well as from fees for the services of certification and registration of legal entities and investment projects is guaranteed. Delivery of the goods to the future subjects of the tourism zone will be prioritized. The quotas on the conveyance of company personnel and tourists by all means of transportation along the international and domestic routes will be provided.

What does Avaza tourism zone look like? First of all, it is the site of construction of high-technology resort and health-improving facilities. It's not only. A botanic garden with plants inhabiting different parts of the planet will be laid out there. The construction of a huge planetarium is planned. There will be the natural and historical monuments compactly placed at the educational centers in Avaza.

Of course, there will be shopping centres, the branches of foreign banks, business centers, offices, conference halls. Comfortable conditions will be created for workaholics who get used to working even during holidays.

It is planned to construct many cafes, snack bars, bistros, restaurants offering various dishes of the national, oriental and European cuisines to the visitors. Four floating restaurants will be built in the sea hundreds of meters far from the shore.

Sport amateurs will be able to visit tennis courts, fitness clubs, saunas, massage rooms, water sport club and those willing to improve health - therapy units supplied with medical equipment and apparatuses for physical therapy produced by the world's leading manufacturers.

The construction works will be carried out in the tourist zone till 2020 and divided into three equal stages. The first, in accordance with the Master Plan, will cover the 750-hectare area. A number of comfortable recreational centers designed for two thousand visitors in total are under construction on the order of the ministries and departments. The first of them will receive visitors this October.

In total, the first stage envisages building of 50 comfortable hotels ranging from 3- to 20-storey buildings and hundreds of villas and cottages for families on the Avaza seaside. When making a journey by ropeway from the seafront one will be able to see the tourism and entertainment industry sites including an original theater of dancing fountains.

Polimeks will construct the airport under the contract with the Airline.

Owing to the North-South transport corridor project, Turkmenbashi city, the nearest settlement to Avaza and the only largest port linking Central Asia to European counties, will play a role of not only the largest sea port on the Caspian Sea but also a key railway, motor and air transport node of the region. A motor road in Avaza and highways connecting the resort, airport and Turkmenbashi city outside of the zone are being constructed.

A 7-km man-made navigable waterway will stretch for 7 kilometres across the national tourist zone. The recreation area will spread over both banks of the artificial river. One can get from one bank to the other by crossing dozens of motor and pedestrian bridges. The boats and yachts will wander on the mirror-like surface of the canal, which will also host water sports competitions. The construction of the artificial river will be finished next October.

When visiting Avaza, a well-known French racing driver Loran Karbonaro, who piloted a car decorated with the national symbols of Turkmenistan and advertisement of the tourist zone in Monte Carlo Rally, exclaimed: "The scale of this construction amazes! I am sure such a grandiose project will be an absolute success!"

The tourist zone on the Caspian Sea coast celebrating the first anniversary of its establishment has just started to expand. The first but very important steps to create the resort infrastructure and construct the first facilities have been taken. So, we are just listening to the first chords of a wonderful melody of the land of singing waves. Soon, certainly very soon, Avaza's jubilant song will be heard…

The contacts of State Committee by Sport and Tourism: (+993 12) 39 75 41, 35 79 34

 

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