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5 Mar, 2013

Silk Road Journeys: Uzbeks Target Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia

BANGKOK – A 12-member tourism delegation from Uzbekistan visited Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore last week in a bid to raise the profile of the Silk Road country and boost travel between Southeast Asia and Central Asia.

It was the second roadshow in as many years. Last year, the delegation visited Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. This year, Indonesia was dropped because of poor response and replaced with Thailand where the response appears to have been better, according to roadshow participants.

According to Mr Otabek Djalilov, Chairman of the Uzbekistan Association of Tourism Organisations, Uzkbekistan is being positioned in Asia as a new, interesting and unique destination. At a broader level, the country is turning increasingly to Asia in order to tap the emerging markets and reduce dependence on the crisis-hit European markets.

At the moment, the strongest source-markets out of Asia are India, Japan and Pakistan, including business travellers, incentives and religious traffic, especially Muslim pilgrims visiting Imam Bukhari’s tomb in Bukhara.

Mr Mansur Ramazonov, General Manager of Continent Tour, said he was encouraged by the response in Singapore where Uzbekistan was presented as a new destination for the well-travelled Singaporeans. From Malaysia, it is largely the Muslim market. From Thailand, the outbound market is on the upswing due to the strong baht and expected to produce good business in the upcoming school-holiday months of mid-April to mid-May.

Mr Shukur Pardaev, Executive Officer of Dolores Travel Services, said he found a number of travel agents exploring Uzbekistan as an alternative to the traditional destinations in the Middle East, especially due to the ongoing political difficulties caused by the “Arab spring”. Uzbekistan is now seen as good value, especially as there has been a marked improvement in the quality of tourism services, guides and infrastructure.

Mr Ulugbek Hamidov, General Manager, Thailand of Uzbekistan Airways said the airline is now flying five weekly Boeing 767 services from Tashkent to Bangkok v.v. However, most of the traffic consists of inbound tourists to Thailand from the Central Asian Republics, Russia and Israel during the winter months. Because this traffic dips in the summer, the airline will cut back services to two a week in the summer 2013 schedule. The flights will be reinstated next winter 2013/14, with one upgrade – the launch of twice weekly flights to Singapore. Flights to Kuala Lumpur will be maintained at three a week year-round.

Citizens of all Southeast Asian countries need visas but these are usually cleared by the Uzbek embassies in 48 hours. Visas on arrival can also be organised for groups, with advance notice.

For the benefit of those who missed the roadshows but are keen to send clients to Uzbekistan, I have uploaded the brochure with full details of the destination, including suggested itineraries, and the tour operators and namecards of the roadshow participants I personally met.

Click on the links below to download.

Name cards from Uzbekistan Roadshow in Thailand 2013

Uzbekistan Brochure