Aktau (Kazakhstan), Sep 15 (EFE).- Kazakhstan on Friday took another step in opening up to foreign tourism by announcing that it is to extend visa-free travel to visit the Central Asian republic to 100 countries.
“Kazakhstan plans to include several Latin American countries on the list. Bilateral agreements are being negotiated with Peru and Uruguay, among others,” Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko told EFE.
The Kazakh government announced its intention to include 17 new countries on the list during the first Kazakhstan Tourism Development Forum that kicked off on Friday in the city of Aktau on the coast of the Caspian Sea.
More than 8.5 million tourists visited the country last year, 20% more than in 2021, thanks to the increase in the flow of visitors from China and India.
Tourism and Sports Minister Ermek Marzhikpayev stressed that the Kazakh government is determined to take measures to stimulate tourism, which include the improvement of infrastructure and services.
“If 350 billion tenge (about $750 million) was invested in tourism last year, this year, by order of the president, it is planned to increase spending by 75%, which this year could reach 800 billion tenge (over $1.7 billion),” he said.
Vasilenko stressed that the electronic visa issuance system introduced in 2019 simplified such procedures for 109 countries combining simplicity with maximum security.
He said that every week Kazakhstan receives 600 direct international flights from 32 countries, including Tel Aviv which began last month.
“And in the coming years we plan to open direct flights to Tokyo, Singapore and New York,” he added.
The diplomat stressed that the “Open Skies” policy has also been extended until 2027, which will attract more international airlines, reduce ticket costs and improve services.
In his recent state-of-the-nation address, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev acknowledged that Kazakhstan was lagging behind other countries and urged speedy development of the republic’s tourism potential.
In August the Kazakh authorities discussed visa liberalization with the European Union during the visit of a European Parliament delegation.
Vasilenko stressed during discussions the need to start consultations on simplifying the visa regime for Kazakh citizens as soon as possible, which will contribute to improving ties between Astana and Brussels. EFE