Soraya Soemadiredja, UNDP in Uzbekistan
Community-based ecotourism is currently the hot topic in UNDP’s Local Government Support Project office in Uzbekistan. We see it as a key part of supporting and empowering regional and local development, particularly in the regions of Djizak and Namangan.
One of the most exciting activities of the joint project between the Cabinet of Ministers and UNDP is the opening of the ski resort in Zaamin for another season.
Through research and training and the first development of a branding and marketing strategy for a tourism zone in Uzbekistan, we want to boost development and tourism in the Djizak region.
The project also includes investment proposals and designing tourism infrastructure. We also hold round tables and exhibition fairs to promote the tourism and investment potential of Zaamin district.
At the Tashkent International Tourism Fair the project team, together with local artists and chefs, promoted Zaamin as an emerging tourism destination.
Our exhibition booth called Inspiring Nature emphasized the natural attractions of the district, including the UNESCO World Heritage status of the Zaamin Mountains, known as the densest and best preserved pine forests in the region.
Meanwhile, UNDP encouraged local authorities and the Zaamin spa to stay open after the popular summer tourism season into the winter and expand activities beyond health tourism.
We suggested ski tourism as an exciting activity that would be a good fit for the natural beauty of the mountains. And while skiing is not very popular in Uzbekistan, our hope is that the new ski slope will help the sport gain popularity and attract visitors from the Djizak, Samarkand and Syrdarya regions.
First, a location for a beginner’s run was identified and a basic lift was built for less than $5,000. At 350 meters long and 15 degrees steep, it is ideal for novice skiers, children and seniors.
In mid-January, we invited Uzbek tour agencies, the media and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get a firsthand experience of the region as a new winter tourism destination in Uzbekistan.
The tour included presentations on the region and its health spa, logistical and transportation options, potential tourist routes and guesthouses in the area.
Most tourism experts who attended the event agreed that the Zaamin spa has winter tourism appeal and their feedback was a valuable part of the tour.
They said that the all inclusive $20 per person fee is a great marketing tool, especially for Uzbekistan’s “Year of the Strong Family,” and it should appeal to local and international tourists.
They also suggested that the spa needs general improvements as well as entertainment facilities such as a night club, a karaoke bar or an in-house cinema.
Providing 24 hour mobile and Internet access is one of the infrastructure projects we need to complete to make the spa fully operational in the winter season.
The tour generated wide media coverage and the spa was flooded with inquiries from journalists and tourists who want to visit this winter.
Zaamin opening up to winter tourism attracted other investments in the region; several private companies in different industries are finding more ways to become involved, and local communities will hopefully benefit from tourism development in their backyard.