Tourist season on Alakol eastern coast may be disrupted

Tourist season on Alakol eastern coast may be disrupted

Disruption of the tourist season is expected on the eastern coast of Alakol. Entrepreneurs complained that they return money to people who bought tours to their resorts due to the new strict requirements of the local sanitary doctor. Small and medium business representatives are confident that the new rules will make this business unprofitable.

Tourism industry representatives of East Kazakhstan region were confused by two additional requirements that the local sanitary doctor has recently reported. Only half of hotels or sanatoriums must be accommodated by tourists and they have to present their COVID-19 testing results. Meanwhile, the rules have not been tightened in other regions of Kazakhstan. Therefore, businesspeople complain that they were put in unequal competitive conditions with other tourist destinations.

Kazakhstan Tourist Association (KTA) has already sent a letter to the chief sanitary doctor of East Kazakhstan region with a request to soften the rules. They opined that the country’s tourism market is currently experiencing one of the most severe crises in its entire history. Any artificial restrictions for it are fraught with long-term economic consequences.

“We see interference in the competitive environment. East Kazakhstan is deprived of the opportunity to serve tourists. I really want the region’s administration to hear the entrepreneurs and make an adequate decision to not disrupt this season in East Kazakhstan on the Alakol coast. During the coronavirus pandemic, it is very important to look for reasonable decisions to ensure safety without creating additional risks. Kazakhstan Tourism Association made this request to the chief sanitary doctor of East Kazakhstan region,” said KTA director Rashida Shaikenova.

SME representatives of the east coast write letters of complaint to the governor. More than 150 entrepreneurs request assistance, explaining what losses the tourism industry may suffer this season. This will also affect the economy of the region, which has already invested six billion tenge (US$15.1 million) in high-quality infrastructure.

“Nearly 80 percent of resorts’ hotel rooms were sold via early booking system by the beginning of the tourist season. How should we decide who of the vacationers is included in the prescribed 50 percent and who is not? All funds received from the early booking were invested in preparing facilities for the opening of the season and observing sanitary requirements for staff and vacationers such as increased staff, purchased food as well as payment for logistics services. After the publication of the new restrictive measures, about 90 percent of vacationers who bought tours refused to go on such conditions,” said an owner of a resort Artyom Vershinin.

Tour operators working with inbound and recreational tourism in eastern Alakol predict a high percentage of refusals from tours. At the same time, the COVID-19 testing result can also cost a pocket for vacationers. As it is know, such a test for one person costs no less than 15,000 tenge (nearly US$38).

“Many people refuse from tours exactly because they do not want to receive such certificate. Since the tourist season in Alakol is quite short, vacationers prefer to book tours in advance. In July, at the peak of the season, a lot of resorts are 100 percent sold. Half of this money will have to be returned. We fulfill the obligations, immediately transferring the money received for tours to the resorts,” said a tour operator Mariya Rusina.

However, Alakol has two coasts. If neighbors do not need the certificate and vacationers are not limited, the tourist flow will inevitably go to the Almaty region just because it is easier and more convenient. SME representatives in the region do not despair and wait for the authorities to respond to their request. The businesspeople have already scheduled a meeting tonight with the East Kazakhstan region tourism and external relations department head.