UN Resident Coordinator Ozonnia Ojielo's Speech at Opening of Tourism Expo 2018

Dear Director of the Department of Tourism Mr. Azamat Zhamankulov!

Dear representatives of development partners  and distinguished guests and colleagues!

I am honored to welcome you to this event on behalf of the UN System in the Kyrgyz Republic!

Over the past six decades, tourism has experienced continued expansion and diversification, becoming one of the biggest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. International tourist arrivals grew by a remarkable 7% in 2017 to reach a total of 1,322 million, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. This strong momentum is expected to continue in 2018 at a rate of 4%-5%.

Currently, tourism motivates billions of people to travel every year, and it is estimated that the figure will continue to grow at an average of 3.3% annually until 2030. According to the long-term forecasts of the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals worldwide will grow to 1.8 billion.

On 25 September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 goals and 169 targets. The new development agenda is the most ambitious to date and its 17 Goals are intended to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and ensure equality and prosperity for all. This agenda considers all contributions to sustainable development regardless of the actor making them, enabling for the first time companies to play a leading role in the realization of the new development agenda.

Tourism can contribute directly or indirectly to all these Goals. Specifically, tourism appears in the targets of Goals 8, 12 and 14, which relate, respectively, to inclusive and sustainable economic development, sustainable consumption and production, and sustainable use of oceans and marine resources. Sustainable tourism is firmly positioned in the post-2015 development agenda. To accomplish this agenda, however, a clear implementation framework is needed, with adequate funding and investment in technology, infrastructure and human resources.

It worth to notice that the sector has huge potential for creating decent jobs and promoting entrepreneurship, helping to empower disadvantaged groups, particularly young people and women. Tourism also promotes exchanges between people from different parts of the world, strengthening understanding between cultures and fostering peace between communities and nations. Tourism is therefore one of the most dynamic and far-reaching economic sectors, and can make a decisive contribution to the achievement of the SDGs. The companies of the tourism sector play an important role in transforming the sector’s approach and introducing sustainability criteria into their operations. These companies can align their strategies with the SDGs by promoting responsible tourism that respects the natural, cultural and social environment and fosters the sustainable development of tourism destinations.

The territory of our country is 94% covered with mountains, this fact attracts most of the tourists first of all for trekking, horse and foot tours, bicycle and jeep tours. In addition, demand for extreme tourism associated with our mountain rivers: rafting, kayaking. And because of mountainous lakes including Issyk Kul we have beach tourism. The second is a package of the Great Silk Road, which includes three countries: Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Each country has its own characteristics. If Uzbekistan attracts ancient architecture of Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva, then to us tourists go to enjoy the pristine nature and get acquainted with nomadic culture - to live in a yurt, visit jailoo, see horse national games.

So far there are challenges for tourism sector today:

One of the main challenges of the sector has to do with employment, especially in terms of ensuring that the companies of the sector offer decent and stable jobs to workers, particularly women and persons with disabilities.

Another challenge is relative to the field of the environment. Tourism activities can cause impacts on ecosystems, so it is necessary to promote the efficient management of resources and to support measures against climate change. Responsible production and consumption are also considered key challenges, with regard to both the supply chain of the companies of the sector and the promotion of sustainable consumption patterns among tourists.

Creating partnerships and opportunities for dialogue between different actors, such as companies, governments, civil society and the education sector, is essential in order to promote knowledge-sharing and to multiply the impact. An additional challenge is related to the need for transparency processes in the organizations of the sector, promoting the preparation of sustainability reports. Furthermore, it is important to preserve destinations and to promote sustainable and smart cities that benefit local people and tourists.

Lastly, the sustainable management of supply chains is a key issue for ensuring the sustainability of the sector, particularly in relation with the assessment, training and contracting of suppliers.

For example, UNDP provides assistance to Kyrgyzstan on the basis of constant consultations with the Government, civil society, private sector and other stakeholders consider emerging needs. UN programs are in line with national priorities and strive to support implementation of tasks aimed at development of the country.

Today UNDP supports tourism development through various projects with a focus on protecting environment and biodiversity, in other words we assist in preservation of economic assets of communities for sustainable development and for future generations. With support of the UNDP projects a network of protected natural areas - Khan-Tengri, Kanachuu and Alatay has been expanded.

Biocultural heritage of Kyrgyzstan attracts thousands of tourists. The World Nomad Games is a national brand that has become one of the starting points for the development of tourism in Kyrgyzstan. This year, Secretariat of the III World Nomad Games has chosen a snow leopard as a talisman symbolizing country's commitment to preserving traditions and nature. I am pleased to report that UNDP supports promotion of this talisman through communication campaigns and provides advisory services in preparation of several recommendations for holding mass events in the natural protected areas.

According to expert assumptions, Kyrgyzstan realizes its touristic capacity only for 10-15% and tourism in Kyrgyzstan is just starting to gain momentum. Today we can see how active the entrepreneurs are who work in the tourism sector in Bishkek and the regions. In fact contribution of tourism to GDP is 5% and officially this sector directly employes 8,300 jobs and indirectly almost 90 thousand jobs or 3,7% of total employment.   

The tourism sector is a fast moving, creative and innovative sector. It is necessary to continue to search for new approaches and ideas and implement the most amazing creative ideas. Because people, when they come to another country, want to see something original, which is not found in any other part of the world. And such ideas can be found only among population, especially it concerns the youth. And UN is the one who can provide such creative platforms at the regions to exchange new ideas. We will continue to expand our interaction with the young local population through our development projects.

Let me express my gratitude to organizers and wish participants fruitful work!

Chong rahmat! Thank you!

Speech by
Mr. Ozonnia Ojielo
Resident Coordinator
Mr. Ozonnia Ojielo
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations World Tourism Organization