Monday, July 1, 2024

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The opening ceremony of the Kazakhstan Year of Tourism in China for 2024 was recently held in Beijing. Throughout the year, China and Kazakhstan will host a series of exciting activities, including art performances and tourism forums.

Kazakhstan boasts a wealth of tourism resources, such as the Shymbulak Ski Resort, Lake Kaindy, Charyn Canyon, the Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve, and the Burabay National Park, which attract numerous tourists annually.

The Kazakh government aims to increase domestic tourist numbers to 11 million and foreign tourist numbers to 4 million by 2030. Additionally, the tourism industry is expected to employ 800,000 people by that time.

Kazakh Minister of Tourism and Sports, Yermek Marzhikpayev, emphasized that China is a priority tourism market and partner for Kazakhstan, due to the geographical proximity and deep historical connections between the two countries.

The minister added that Kazakhstan plans to attract more Chinese tourists by showcasing its rich nomadic culture, centuries-old history, and unique natural landscapes.

In recent years, tourism cooperation between China and Kazakhstan has deepened continuously. In November 2017, China established a tourism office in Astana, marking the first such office set up by China in a Central Asian country. This office has been instrumental in promoting cultural and tourism exchanges between the two nations. In November 2023, mutual visa exemption between China and Kazakhstan was implemented, further boosting travel demand on both sides.

Since the beginning of this year, the number of Chinese tourists traveling to Kazakhstan has risen significantly, making the Central Asian country an increasingly popular outbound travel destination.

According to statistics from the Chinese online travel agency Ctrip, tourism bookings to Kazakhstan by Chinese tourists have increased by 229 percent year on year, and 262 percent compared to 2019.

Data from another Chinese online travel platform, Fliggy, showed that since March, flight bookings to Kazakhstan have more than tripled from a year ago. Almaty, Astana, and Aktau are particularly popular among Chinese tourists.

“Currently, Chinese tourists can take direct flights to Kazakhstan from Beijing, Xi’an, Hangzhou, and Urumqi, or enter the country through land ports in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Natural scenery and local culture are major attractions,” said Xu Jia, general manager of a travel agency in Sichuan province.

Xinjiang is adjacent to Kazakhstan, and some Chinese tourists choose to tour the autonomous region first before heading to Kazakhstan via places like Khorgos.

It is reported that the Khorgos international highway bus station operates four international passenger routes to Kazakhstan. With the peak tourist season underway, there has been a significant increase in the number of tourists traveling between China and Kazakhstan.

The China-Kazakhstan Khorgos International Border Cooperation Center, located in the Khorgos Area of the China (Xinjiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone, is always bustling with activity. This cooperation center spans the border between China and Kazakhstan, covering a total area of 5.6 square kilometers.

Citizens of China, Kazakhstan, and third countries can enter or leave the cooperation center visa-free for up to 30 days, facilitating business negotiations, trade, tourism, and shopping.

The passage connecting China and Kazakhstan in the cooperation center has become a popular photo spot for tourists.

Since the cooperation center resumed full operation in 2023, the number of tourists has shown exponential growth. It handled a total of 4.18 million inbound and outbound tourists throughout the year, a year-on-year increase of 4.27 times.

This year, the cooperation center has once again experienced a peak in cross-border tourism and shopping, with tens of thousands of tourists entering and leaving the center daily.

Minister Marzhikpayev stated that the Kazakhstan Year of Tourism in China is a milestone event that strengthens the friendly relations between the two countries.

“We believe that the dialogue between the two sides will inject new vitality into the partnership in the tourism sector, open up new prospects, and lay the foundation for fruitful long-term cooperation,” he noted.

Kairat Batyrbayev, executive director of the Eurasian International Studies Association in Kazakhstan, said that China’s booming outbound tourism is expected to bring more Chinese tourists to Kazakhstan in 2024.

This influx will help drive the development of Kazakhstan’s tourism industry and promote the upgrading of supporting infrastructure such as roads, hotels, and restaurants. Batyrbayev added that Chinese tourists gaining a deeper understanding of Kazakh culture, customs, and cuisine will further deepen cultural exchange between the two countries.

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