Mirziyoyev underscores Uzbekistan's huge tourism potential at UNWTO gathering in Samarkand

By Daniel Rad in Samarkand October 16, 2023

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev officially opened the 25th General Assembly of the UN World Tourism Organisation in the Silk Road city of Samarkand on October 16.

As part of the Central Asian country’s move to attract new groups of tourists, the no-expenses-spared event was held at the Silk Road complex outside the ancient city. Mirziyoyev flew in to highlight developments in Uzbekistan’s tourism sector over the past few years. The nation opened up to international travellers in 2017 as the president took office and embarked on his path of reform.

“Over one billion dollars have been invested in improving tourism infrastructure in the city of Samarkand alone,” Mirziyoyev noted during his speech.

The gathering highlighted the increasing cooperation between Uzbekistan and international organisations like the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The country is firmly back in the spotlight of the post-COVID 19 tourism market, following the damage done to its growth trajectory by the pandemic.

Delegates from over 140 countries attended the event. A special chartered flight arrived from Madrid with WTO delegates.

“The number of foreign tourists travelling to Uzbekistan has doubled. Revenues from tourist exports have increased four times,” Mirziyoyev said.

“For example, this year the numbers of tourists from Japan has increased five times, from India and Italy 3.5 times and from the United States two times,” he added.

Uzbekistan expects to receive 7mn international tourists this year. By 2030, the annual figure will be as much as 15mn, with a domestic tourist flow of 25mn, if all goes to plan. This is the case even though tourism is not something Uzbekitan has historically relied upon to generate revenues.

Mirzoyoyev met with WTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili to discuss several collaborative aspects of tourism development, including ways in which Uzbekistan could increase its tourism potential.

Pololikashvili said: “The UNWTO General Assembly gathers at a vital moment both for the tourism sector as well as for our societies. Tourism has weathered the biggest storm in its history, and we are now well on course to a return to pre-pandemic levels of international arrivals by the end of this year.

“At the same time, however, we must urgently face up to new challenges, most notably a mounting climate crisis, economic uncertainty and persisting geopolitical tensions."

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