Uzbekistan’s Tourism State Committee is holding talks with CrescentRating company about the inclusion of Uzbek hotels and restaurants into the rating of Muslim hospitality. This will allow to develop Ziyorat tourism (pilgrim tourism).
In the East, “Ziyorat” means “visiting holy places” and involves two main varieties: pilgrim tourism and religious tourism of an excursion-cognitive orientation.
According to a press release from the Tourism State Committee, a memorandum of cooperation with CresentRating was signed during Ziyorat Tourism Forum, held in Bukhara in February of this year.
There are plenty of other measures being taken in Uzbekistan to develop pilgrim tourism. In particular, a special section of the national website is being developed - Halal.Uzbekistan.travel, containing a database of hotels, cafes & restaurants and other organizations catering for Muslim tourists; a new advertising and information campaign is being developed '7 reasons to celebrate Ramadan in Uzbekistan and so on. It is expected that film crews of Malaysian and Indonesian television companies will come in April to prepare promotional videos advertising ziyorat tourism in Uzbekistan.
There are already quite favourable conditions have been created for Muslims visiting the country. Last year they began to introduce recognised practices of "halal" standards in local restaurants and cafes. All international airports and train stations have dedicate prayer rooms. The national airline Uzbekistan Airways launched a flight between Tashkent and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), the nearest airport located to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Flydubai has been granted the right to fly between the capital of Uzbekistan and the city of Dubai five times a week.
Since February 2018, a visa-free regime has been established for citizens of Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey, so that they can visit Muslim shrines located in Tashkent, Bukhara, and Samarkand without unnecessary bureaucratic delays. Since March of this year, the UAE has been included into the list of countries whose citizens can visit Uzbekistan visa-free, Iranians have the right to obtain electronic visas. In addition, since the beginning of 2019, a special 'Pilgrim visa' has been introduced, it is issued for two months to foreign tourists who come to Uzbekistan to make pilgrimages and study the country's religious and spiritual heritage.
Indeed, according to international studies, Ziyorat tourism is steadily growing every year. For example, if the number of Muslim tourists in the world amounted to 131 million people in 2017, then by 2020 this number will increase to 160 million. Similar forecasts are observed for profits from pilgrim tourism: in 2017 this was at around $142 billion, by 2026 year it is expected to grow to $300 billion.
According to the State Committee for Tourism, 5.3 million foreigners visited Uzbekistan last year, of which 4.6 million were citizens of neighbouring Central Asian countries, 406,000 were citizens of other CIS countries, about 326,000 were tourists from rest of the world. The export of tourist services exceeded $1 billion. However, it was not specified how many foreigners entered the country with the aim of ziyorat tourism.