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Astana, October 6: President Nursultan Nazarbayev touted Kazakhstan’s potential as a tourist destination in a speech at the opening ceremony yesterday (Oct. 5) of the 18th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Astana.


“Today tourism accounts for 10% of world GDP and employs around 250 million people. The global income from tourism amounts to USD 4 trillion. So tourism is one of the world economic engines. Kazakhstan's potential is rich and various. Our country, located in the heart of Eurasia, is the ninth largest in the world. Its territory exceeds that occupied by the countries of the European Union. It stretches 1800km from north to south and 3000km from west to east. We have preserved the natural beauty of Kazakhstan,” the President said.

Kazakhstan is indeed vast, but its natural beauty is not that well known. The landscape is incredibly diverse. The northern forest-steppe turns into half-deserts and deserts in the South. One of the largest tourist centers at present is Taraz - the historic city standing on the ‘Great Silk Road’. Other cities such as Almaty and the ultra-modern capital city of Astana are must sees and. In addition to the urban experience, world class hunting, trekking and skiing is available at the stunning Shimbulak mountain resort, the site for the 2011 Asian Games and possibly the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The immense Kazakh steppe boasts diverse flora and fauna, including the Saiga Antelope, Siberian Roe Deer. Wolves, foxes and badgers abound …  Saryaqa – the lake area of Northern Kazakhstan - is the latest area in the Republic to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The extraordinary Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi in South Kazakhstan region and the petroglyphs at the archaeological landscape of Tamgaly (Almaty region) are also World Heritage sites.  

Kazakhstan has some of the largest endorheic basins such as Lake Balkhash and the Aral and Caspian Seas. In addition, Kazakhstan boasts an alluring culture that today unifies the ancient ways of the nomads with the dynamism of the country’s educated youth. Infrastructure to share with foreign tourists the beauty of Kazakhstan is, however, underdeveloped. In 2008, for instance, the income from tourism amounted to KZT 74 billion ($490 million) which, although considerable, falls well below potential.

The 18th Session of the UNWTO is taking place in Astana between October 2nd and 9th. More than 500 representatives from 146 UNWTO countries are attending. Today (October 6th), the plenary meetings of the General Assembly commence. In addition, meetings of Committees and workshops on the role of the private sector in the UNWTO will be held.  

The Astana Declaration will be adopted by Session participants. This document will help Kazakhstan to attract foreign investors for an accelerated construction of its tourism sector. This week also, the 6th International Tourism Exhibition ‘Astana-Leisure’ is also being held.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is a United Nations agency dealing with questions relating to tourism. It is a significant global body, concerned with the collection and collation of statistical information on international tourism. The Organization represents public sector tourism bodies from most countries in the world and the publication of its data makes possible comparisons of the flow and growth of tourism on a global scale. The UNWTO also promoted the development of responsible, ?sustainable and universally accessible tourism, paying particular attention to the ?interests of developing countries?. Kazakhstan became a member in 1993.

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