What activities are being performed in Uzbekistan’s tourism field during the pandemic period? Which new methods and approaches are being practiced in the development of tourism? What kind of new projects are being planned?
Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, Chairman of the State Committee for Tourism Development, Aziz Abdukhakimov, answered the above given questions.
- Aziz Abdukhakhorovich, what kind of activities are being implemented in tourism and sports fields currently, while due to COVID-19 Uzbekistan is also taking measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic in the country, such as postponing events in these two fields, cancelling flights particularly?
– Yes, currently self-isolation is a mandatory regime in Uzbekistan. However, this does not mean that we should passively sit back, but rather use this time effectively to implement new methods and approaches to develop these spheres. For example, State Committee for Tourism Development is currently working on developing online-tourism, supporting the entrepreneurs and start-up businesses in this regard. In the meantime, Ministry of Physical Education and Sports has already started working on active development of distance sports and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, free online training courses and webinars are being organized to improve the skills of staff and specialists together with the Association of Private Travel Organizations of Uzbekistan (APTO), the Association of Chefs, and the Gastronomy Association. Several tourism business representatives are making contribution in the fight against the coronavirus, taking active part in various charity campaigns and events. Moreover, the State Committee for Tourism Development together with the APTO and the National PR Center, are designing a strategy for promoting a national product abroad, under which a road-show to European and CIS countries will be organized after the quarantine.
- What particular activities are being implemented for the development of online-tourism?
- Currently we are working on the launch of online-toursim.uz website, which will allow to have virtual trios about Uzbekistan. This is going to be the first ever platform offering virtual trips in our country. In this tough times we really need to make extra efforts on promoting tourism in Uzbekistan. This would give opportunity for travellers to plan their trips while staying home. We are expecting to launch the site in coming days.
- What exact areas will Online-toursim.uz cover?
- According to the concept, the website will cover mainly three areas:
For tourists: will enable to take virtual trips all over the country. Currently we have started cooperating with museums and other tourist attractions on launching virtual tours. Taking the given opportunity, we would like to cooperate with our young professionals working in this field in organizing online tours. At the same time we invite cafés, restaurants and other touristic objects to take necessary measures on launching a virtual tour, since this would allow travellers to choose their preferred destination already now. If the tourism business representatives have any difficulties in this regard, they can find necessary recommendations and directions on online-tourism,uz website.
For the tourism field representatives: Cooperation with hotel owners and managers, tour operators, guest houses, guides etc. will be strengthened, and further development of the field will be continued. The platform will enable to organize webinars on the latest global trends and news, online monitoring and guidebooks. Their employment will be guaranteed during the crisis, as well as after it.
For start-ups willing to implement new touristic projects: the platform will have information about new projects in the field and other start-up businesses, online consultancy will be launched. We will have grants awarded for the establishments of creative projects.
- Tourism field is going though tough times during the quarantine period. How is the government providing support in this regard?
- As mentioned by our President Shavkat Mirziyoev, the government will take care of each and every entrepreneur during this difficult time. A number of benefits have been provided during the pandemic in accordance with Presidential Decrees No. 5969 of March 19, 2020 and No. 5978 of April 3, 2020, particularly in tourism field. Tour operators, travel agents, accommodation facilities are exempted from land tax and property tax until 31 December 2020, pay social tax at a reduced rate (1%); for accommodation facilities, restaurants and other entities with property, the accrual of a penalty for property tax, land tax and tax for the use of water resources has been suspended, no measures will be taken to collect tax debt; for individual entrepreneurs associated with the tourism sector (family guest houses, guides, artisans), the income tax levied on individuals was reduced by 30%, and the calculation of a fixed amount of income tax and social taxes for those who were forced to terminate activities during the quarantine period. In this case, entrepreneurs can notify tax authorities online about the termination of their activities. Credit payments debts (hotels, tour operators, transport and logistics companies) were delayed. In addition, privileges were granted for export-import operations (if the receivable does not exceed 10% of the total annual export, goods are allowed to be exported without guarantee payment, one-time import of technological equipment and raw materials in exchange for repayment of the foreign trade receivables) ; the application of the penalty for the delay in receivables from foreign trade operations (for travel services sold to foreign partners) was suspended; tax audits are canceled. The measures taken by the government will prevent further deterioration of the financial situation of business entities, freeing them from tax and credit payments in the current difficult economic conditions. This will help preserve the activities of enterprises, and along with this, jobs and employment, which is the main goal - to preserve jobs and improve the living standards of the population.
- What is planned to be done after the pandemic?
- Uzbek State Committee for Tourism Development has addressed the Cabinet of Ministers with urgent measures on reducing the adverse effects connected with the emergency situation in the world tourism market on the local tourism sector of the country. According to the statement by the Deputy Prime-Minister Aziz Abdukhakimov, as the quarantine caused by COVID-19 comes to en end, several start-up projects in touristic field will be funded and realized in Uzbekistan. Amongst them are innovative business ideas, especially by younger generation and their proposals aimed to creating comfortable conditions and exciting opportunities for tourists. Additionally, local people will also be involved in collecting audio, video and photo contents within the frame of the project “Discover your region”. Expansion of touristic locations such as “Touristic village” and “Touristic neighbourhood” are expected to be realized based on the current project. Furthermore, we are also going to organize a campaign “Plan your trip” in cooperation with the organizations in the tourism field on developing electronic systems for actively promoting travel proposals and receiving online applications for trips in Uzbekistan after the pandemic. Online tender project “New business-ideas for tourism”, campaigns in social networks “My impressions about Uzbekistan” for foreign tourists, and “My trip” campaign among locals are planned to be held. Programs on area studies and another project “Young Traveller” in cooperation with the National Television and Radio Company involving guides and other experts are also expected to be organized. Uzbekistan is also planning on implementing new incentives to mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic.
- What recommendations would you give to those quarantined?
- Today, when the majority are quarantined at home, it is extremely important to remain physically active. I would recommend to pay more attention to healthy lifestyle and do more physical exercises. We live in the age of internet, when everyone is able to download sports and health applications and some sports at home. Stay at home and do your best to spend this time with best benefits, working on personal development, strictly following hygiene, read more books, since continuous physical and mental self-work will definitely bring great results.