Short-term visas will be issued by Uzbekistan to transit passengers from May onwards. These visas will be valid for 72 hours. In the past, the Central Asian country had relaxed visa rules for nationals of Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Turkey. The nationals of nine countries, apart from Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are allowed stay in Uzbekistan without visas for two months.
These measures are being launched with an aim to attract more tourists and investors, including those from Central Asian countries. To enable this, the officials are looking at options for effectively using border buffer zones.
Aziz Abdukhakimov, Chairman, Uzbek State Committee for Tourism Development, was quoted by Kazakh News as saying that even if the buses halt for 10 minutes, they need to make border areas flourishing sites, open restaurants and sell souvenirs there. It is in the interests of people of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan that foreign nationals crossing their borders spend their money in their countries.
Uzbekistan is said to be heavily dependent on the tourism industry. The Republic of Kazakhstan has the infrastructure necessary for it, with over 7,300 cultural and historical sites. Ancient ones, particularly in Bukhara, Khiva, Samarkand, Shakhrisabz and Tashkent, have been reportedly preserved. A regional tourism development program has been prepared by the officials; work is ongoing to improve the potential of tourism organizations and developing hotels to world standards.
Moreover, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are jointly working to come up with a tourist route ‘Astana-Shymkent-Zhibek Zholy’. Included in the route may be Almaty, the biggest city of Kazakhstan. Included in the project’s framework is the intention of the authorities to improve the rail and air routes.
Erik Utembayev, Kazakh Ambassador to Uzbekistan, said that they had reached an agreement with the aviation authorities in Tashkent, which will enable the implementation of the pilot project, bringing in more tourists from China at the first stage. In the second stage, they wanted to develop this pilot project in other countries.
The authorities of Uzbekistan are confident that the visa-free inflows will help encourage the entrepreneurship alongside tourism. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have already seen their bilateral trade and economic ties grow in the recent years. It is said that the border control between the two countries has been organized and the scope of tourism services has been extended.
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