Kazakhstan, a growing tourist destination in Central Asia, is looking to target Middle Eastern tourists with its Muslim-friendly facilities.
The country received a record total of 6 million international tourists in 2017 and is eager to prop up arrivals from the Middle East and cash in on the boom in Halal tourism.
Yerlan Zhailaubay, the head of Tourism and Foreign Affairs, says Middle Eastern tourists, specifically those coming from the GCC, are among the target groups that the country wishes to attract.
"These are travellers who wish to enjoy rich cultural excursions, dynamic winter sports and an abundance of luxurious experiences," he said in an interview.
Among the highest number of GCC residents who frequent Kazakhstan are from the UAE and Saudi Arabia whose travel preferences centre on sophisticated, yet family attractions, he said.
Zhailaubay highlighted the country’s Halal facilities for travellers from Muslim countries, saying: “We are seeing a huge potential for developing a niche market that answers to every need of Arab tourists. Currently, Kazakhstan has a number of mosques to accommodate Muslim tourists, as well as various halal restaurants spread across the country’s tourist hotspots, and we plan to add more Muslim-friendly recreations in the future.”
As part of its efforts to drive tourism in the country, the Kazakhstan Tourism Industry Department has unveiled various programmes centred on its skiing offers, including the promotion of Shymbulak Ski Resort, the largest skiing facility in the country, and its role as an up and coming luxury sporting destination in the region.
Almaty, the old capital city, is home to the biggest mosque in the country, Charyn Canyon, and the Medeu Ice Skating Rink. The country offers more than 350 different star-rated hotels, making up 20,000 lodging spaces and 12,000 apartments. Dining experiences are another wonder in Kazakhstan, with culinary experts offering over 30 specialities throughout the province.
“Kazakhstan is a diverse country that embraces people from all walks and nations. Our country is slowly rising up to the levels of top travel destinations in the Middle Eastern market, in which we have attained the 14th spot. We look forward to welcoming more tourists from the region in the years to come,” he said.
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