Rural Development and Sustainable Tourism in Kyrgyzstan
High mountain valleys stretching into China and the world’s second largest mountain lake create a fantastic tourism resource in this very remote region. Here, the Tourism Company joined with ADAS International to handle the tourism component of a wider regional development strategy, which also included agricultural development and micro-finance systems. Funding was provided by the European Union TACIS programme and the main counterpart was the regional government.
The challenge was threefold – seeking improvement to the quality of the product offer; providing better orientation and information for visitors to the region; and strengthening access channels to international markets.
The Tourism Company developed strategic priorities for rural and community tourism in the area, and followed this up with practical involvement in a number of actions. These included, amongst others:
- Establishing a tourist information centre in a central location;
- Providing direct advice to ten local handling agents on their offer;
- Researching awareness and response to the region amongst western tour operators and facilitating links between them and the Kyrgyz operators;
- Setting up a study tour in Germany for Kyrgyz operators and service providers;
- Establishing a media fam trip and recruiting travel journalists to it, leading to coverage in UK Sunday travel supplements;
- Securing an improved entry for the region in Lonely Planet.
One of the unique product offers in the area is the provision of seasonal camping sites using traditional circular felt yurts. However, the standard and authenticity of the experience is very varied. Working with colleague consultants ECEAT, from the Netherlands, we established new standards and guidelines for yurt camp operators.