Uzbekistan to develop international and domestic tourism
The Uzbek government has announced an action plan to develop the country’s tourism industry. The new measures, targeting transport, visa requirements and taxes, are in effect since the end of February. Uzbekistan hopes to promote its tourism industry despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
This article was originally published on Novastan’s French website on 16 February 2021.
On 3 February, the Uzbek president Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree aiming at developing Uzbekistan’s tourism industry, as reported by the media Spot.uz. With these new measures, the most populated country in Central Asia seeks to promote domestic and international tourism by attracting both local and neighbouring visitors, all in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Transport, tourist taxes, business incentives and extra days off work are among the six initiatives covered by the decree. The objective is to create an attractive environment for tourists and to strengthen the country’s image. Tourism represented 3,4% of the country’s GDP in 2020, according to the economic database Knoema.
New air and rail connections
One of the priorities is to increase the frequency and availability of transport throughout the country. Flights linking Farg’ona (Fergana) and Urgench, Termiz and Urgench, and Qarshi and Urgench were set to be launched by the end of February 2021.
The frequency of rail services between Andijon and Khiva, located respectively in the east and west of the country, will be increased. At the same time, regular services will be launched between Termiz, Qarshi and Khiva; Khiva, Urgench and Nukus; and Termiz, Qarshi and Samarkand, all set to be completed by 1 April. These new rail connections will be subsidised by the state.
Extended financial incentives
Financial incentives, introduced at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, are extended until 31 December 2021 to support the transport measures. Accordingly, the 50% reduction on income tax rate continues for travel agencies and accommodation facilities. Airline and rail ticket fees are subsidised at a rate of 30% for trips taken to Uzbekistan by groups of foreign tourists of at least 10 people, for a minimum stay of five nights in accommodation facilities.
Travel agencies and registered tourist accommodation facilities now benefit from an exoneration of property tax as well as a lower social tax, at a reduced rate of 1%. The application of penalties for unpaid taxes on foreign business relating to travellers, travel agencies and accommodation providers is also suspended until the end of 2021. However, to support infrastructure, the tourist tax will now apply to all tourists, not just foreign ones. This last measure was implemented from 1 March.
From 1 March, Uzbekistan has allowed citizens of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and China to spend up to 10 days in the country without a visa. Previously, the visa-free stay was limited to 5 days. British citizens can stay in Uzbekistan for up to 30 days without a visa.
With the introduction of this new set of measures, Uzbekistan intends to improve the quality of services and to promote its tourism sector both locally and internationally. Grants and funds to improve networks, community services, quality of roads and touristic services will be made available to achieve this goal. All that’s left to do is to wait and see if these measures will have the desired effect.
Translated by Alice Coveney
Edited by Joana da Silva Pina