by ANSAR M BHATTI
TASHKENT, DEC 28 (DNA) Davrukov Fakhriddin, Deputy Chairman of the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Tourism Development has said Uzbekistan accords great importance to its relations with Pakistan adding being one of the largest countries in the region, we expected big flow of tourists from Pakistan.
He said Uzbekistan has seen huge influx of tourists from across the globe during past few years mainly because of excellent facilities provided to the tourists and liberalization of visa regime.
The Deputy Chairman expressed these views in an exclusive interview with DNA news agency, CENTRELINE magazine and daily ISLAMABAD POST. The interview took place in Tashkent.
Shukhrat Isakulov Head of Statistics department and Feruz Dodiev Deputy Head of International Affairs and Protocol Department were also present on the occasion.
The Uzbek tourism committee acts as a tourism ministry and its Chairman and Deputy Chairman’s status is equal to minister and deputy minister respectively. Both of them are appointed by the President of Uzbekistan.
The deputy chairman said huge tourism potential exists between Uzbekistan and Pakistan but unfortunately we have not yet explored this potential fully. He nevertheless hoped that the recently launched direct flight between Pakistan and Uzbekistan will surely increase flow of Pakistani tourists to Uzbekistan.
While talking about religious tourism he said his country was consistently implementing comprehensive measures to develop the tourism industry as one of the strategic sectors of the national economy, which ensures the accelerated development of the regions, increasing the income and quality of life of the population, as well as improving the investment attractiveness.
Mr. Fakhriddin added, both Uzbekistan and Pakistan being the Muslim countries possess plenty of religious sites therefore both have every reason to expand and intensify their cooperation in religious tourism.
He said Uzbekistan had got international recognition as one of the largest centers of Ziyarah tourism in the Islamic World. In Uzbekistan there are more than 7,000 priceless memorial monuments of historical material heritage – the main centers and destinations for the tourism in Uzbekistan. A huge role is played by rich national traditions and values, emanating from the pre-Islamic period of civilization, thanks to which such priceless material objects were created.
He said President Shavkat Mirziyoyev initiated ambitious reforms to transform the country into an attractive destination for travelers. Reforms include a 30-day period of visa-free travel privileges for visitors from 65 countries; and a simplified electronic visa system for citizens of 77 countries, including the United States, was just introduced, according to export.gov, which is managed by the US Commerce Department.
‘In 2017 we had more than 2.6 million tourists while in 2018 the number rose to 5.4 million visitors which means we almost doubled the tourism flow. It was due to visa liberalizations and other measures. The E-visa system is very comprehensive and easy to follow. The electronic visas are granted in just two days’.
The Deputy Chairman (Deputy Minster), further said ever since opening the doors for tourists they had got huge response even beyond their expectations. They were actually not ready for such a huge response therefore they had to work on war footing to improve and expand infrastructure to accommodate more and more tourists.
He said Uzbekistan offers huge incentives to those investing in the hospitality industry. People investing in hotel industry are offered cash back facility. While further elaborating this facility the deputy chairman said for instance somebody building a hotel of 50 or more than 50 rooms is compensated @ USD 4.5 thousand per room. The compensation is paid immediately after the completion of the project. He however made it clear that this facility is available only for next three years.
To a question about security of the tourist Davrukov Fakhriddin said Uzbekistan is a safe country and due attention is paid towards flawless security of the visitors.
He said we did something unique in Uzbekistan by establishing tourism police and appointed a separate deputy tourism minister who is in charge with the security and development of the tourism sector.
“The tourism police comprise very well educated men and women who are quite familiar with the touristic practices. They are efficient, responsible and cordial. Just recently a family lost its valuables in Samrkand. The family reported it to tourist police and within no time the family got its belongings back”.DNA