(An exclusive interview by London Post with Chairman of the Committee for Tourism Development Republic of Tajikistan Mr.Muminzod Kamoliddin).
Tajikistan is blessed with some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes and cultural diversity, making it a great tourist destination. I had the opportunity to meet with the Chairman of the Committee for Tourism Development Republic of Tajikistan Mr.Muminzod Kamoliddin (He was representative of his country at the World Tourism Market exhibition 2023 in London) and discuss how to promote tourism in Tajikistan and attract tourists from all over the world to visit this land. He said that Tajikistan is a treasure that people do not know or want to know more about before they set foot on this land. The Chairman of Tourism Committee, who is young and has a very attractive personality, informed me about the government initiatives taken by the Tajik government to promote domestic tourism, which are quite impressive. He said that the government believes in promoting tourism activities in Tajikistan to support the country’s economy. He said that the Tajik government and tourism organizations are working together in this regard. The infrastructure has been improved and a successful strategy is being adopted under the current president’s guidance, which can make tourism a major source of foreign exchange for Tajikistan. The Chairman of Tourism also thanked the Embassy of Tajikistan in the United Kingdom and specially appreciated the role of the Embassy in bringing Tajikistan Tourism Development to the World Tourism Market. The Chairman of Tourism also appreciated the role of the British Government for the promotion of tourism in Tajikistan. Expressing his thoughts about the tourist destinations of Tajikistan, he said that nature has blessed Tajikistan with high mountain ranges, vast deserts, and the oldest civilizations in the world. Besides, there are many places that attract international tourists.
London Post: How does the Tajikistan Tourism Department plan to promote and enhance the country’s tourism industry in the coming years?
Chairman:To ensure the further development of the tourism sector, the Tourism Development Committee will undertake necessary measures to increase the variety and improve quality of tourism services, widely introduce medical, eco-tourism, and mountaineering.
Furthermore, Tajikistan Tourism Department will pay an utmost attention to implementation of investment projects in the sector, further construction of tourism infrastructure facilities in line with international standards, improvement of Tajikistan’s raises international ranking, promotion of the country’s national brand covering tourism opportunities at the global level, as well as capacity building of the industry.
LP:Can you share any recent initiatives or projects aimed at attracting international tourists to Tajikistan?Chairman
Chairman: Tajikistan has great potential to convert natural and cultural heritage resources into a flourishing tourism sector, and we are working closely with our international partners to realise our ambition of becoming one of the world’s preeminent adventure tourism destinations. With the support of UNWTO and the Asian Development Bank we have prepared a sustainable tourism development plan, including a tourism structure plan with nine tourism development areas. In Phase 1, we will focus on three areas, the Khujand and Fann Mountains TDAs, plus reinforcing the attraction of Dushanbe in its dual role as national capital and primary tourism gateway. We will soon commission the masterplan for each of these areas, and in doing so identify specific investment needs, including transport, power, and communications infrastructure, accommodation and leisure facilities, and supporting services.
At a macro level, Tajikistan also needs significant investment in its aviation sector, to strengthen domestic and international connectivity. We are working with the World Bank’s IFC, and with ADB, and even at this early stage would welcome conversations with those of you experienced in upgrading airport infrastructure, the creation and expansion of low-cost airlines, and aircraft leasing and servicing.
LP: What unique cultural and natural attractions does Tajikistan emphasize to appeal to a diverse range of travelers?
Chairman: If the UK’s tourism sector is defined by its castles, country houses, and landscaped gardens, Tajikistan’s unique selling point is its mountains. You could stack five Ben Nevis on top of one another and they still would not reach the summit of Ismoil Somoni Peak, the highest mountain in Tajikistan, which soars to an elevation of 7,495 m. The Pamir Range is often referred to as the Roof of the World, and the Pamir Highway winding through it is renowned as one of the world’s most spectacular road trips. Lower and more accessible, but no less scenic, are the Fann and Zeravshan Mountains, their passes, lakes, and pastures beloved of hikers and mountain bikers alike. Tajikistan is an adventure playground for those who love the great outdoors.
But perched high on the Silk Road, Tajikistan also has thousands of years of human history and culture. There are petroglyphs carved by ancient travellers; dramatically located fortresses; Buddhist monasteries, mosques, shrines, and mausoleums. The 5,500 year old archaeological site of Sarazm is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and many of our traditions – including Shashmaqom music; Oshi Palav, our national dish; and the spring festival of Navruz – are inscribed by UNESCO on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
LP: How does the Tourism Department collaborate with other sectors to create a holistic and positive visitor experience in Tajikistan?
Chairman: Tajikistan, we are working with our international partners, including UNWTO, to ensure that our tourism recovery and future development are in line with the international best practices for sustainability. With the support of UNWTO and the Asia Development Bank, we have prepared a new Sustainable Tourism Development Plan, which was presented at a workshop in Dushanbe just last week. We are improving our data collection, statistical analysis, and surveying capacity to understand better our tourism sector, its challenges, and needs and better engage with all the public and private sector stakeholders who play key roles in our national tourism journey.
I would also like to highlight the Rural Economy Development Project, which Tajikistan is implementing with the financial support of the World Bank. Sustainability and resilience are built on people: we need to build capacity at every level and ensure that our population – including vulnerable groups such as women, youth, and returning migrant workers – have good quality employment opportunities and become successful entrepreneurs. Tourism development can provide this in our fragile mountain communities. We are offering practical training courses for those in the hospitality sector, and I am excited to see the impact our multi-million dollar matching grant program will have on product diversification and quality improvements.
 Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in the UK, at 1,345 m.
LP: In the face of global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, what strategies has the department adopted to ensure the resilience and recovery of Tajikistan’s tourism sector?
MK: 2020 was the worst year on record for tourism: international arrivals dropped 73%, and destinations lost an estimated $1.3 trillion in export revenues. Our experience in the Republic of Tajikistan mirrored the global situation almost exactly: our international arrivals fell 72%, and in the same period, travel and tourism represented just 1% of the national GDP, less than half of what it had been the year before. We have deen that tourism growing again by the end of 2023, and we are making sustainable, resilient tourism the main focus of our recovery.
Why is sustainability so important to Tajikistan? It is simple. We know that we are the most vulnerable country to climate change in all of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. As temperatures rise, our glaciers shrink, and water is in ever shorter supply, our survival is threatened. And that sharply focuses the mind. We have to do everything we can to put environmental, economic, and social sustainability at the heart of policymaking, implementation, and business. We must encourage all of you to do likewise because it is a global problem that demands a coordinated international effort. Climate change and the chaos it causes do not recognize national borders.
We are also investing significant sums in infrastructure, protecting and preserving historical and cultural sites such as the remarkable Yamchun Fortress, and building a new long-distance hiking and mountain biking trails network, which will become one of the most exciting adventure routes in the world. This investment creates jobs now in communities that have been hit by the double blow of COVID-19 and the economic downturn resulting from Ukraine crisis, but it is also how we are able to incentivise and stimulate sustainable tourism growth for many years to come.
The London 2023 World Tourism Market (WTM) Expo proved to be a significant event for Tajikistan’s tourism sector. Tajikistan’s pavilion distinguished itself with its size, colors, and overall appeal. Visitors were captivated by the exhibition of traditional and cultural items that highlighted the rich heritage of Tajikistan. Additionally, they received detailed information about Tajikistan’s tourism opportunities from the pavilion staff. The young officers from the Tajikistan Embassy, who demonstrated remarkable activity and enthusiasm. Embassy staff addressed visitors’ inquiries and actively promoted Tajikistan’s tourism potential. Their dedication and passion reflected Tajikistan’s ambition to enhance its tourism and stimulate economic growth.
(Interview by Raza Syed)