On the Great Silk Route, Tajikistan jumps on the tourism bandwagon of destinations in Central Asia, having become one of the newest members of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) during the General Assembly in Cartagena, Colombia.
Mountainous, the landlocked country is bordered by Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east. If anything, tourism in Tajikistan takes pride in these grand mountain ranges including Karakorum, Kunlun and Hindukush which represent the most unique about the country. Offering a special attraction of routes on altitudes from 300 to 7,495 meters with the highest peak being the Ismoil Somoni Peak, the heights challenge travelers and mountain climbers. Besides, the country boasts dry sub-tropics, endless glaciers, blooming alpine meadows as well as arid deserts, crystal-clear lakes, thermal and mineral water springs and a promise of clear skies year-round.
In an exclusive interview with Tajikistan’s chairman for the Committee of Youth Affairs, Sports and Tourism, Maliksho Nematov, underscored his long-term objectives that include carrying out tourism policies for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and for poverty alleviation in the republic for 2008-2009.
Development of tourism will definitely assist his office with creating jobs and building the new airport, he said.
According to Nematov, the entry has been made easier. “With the strengthening of our external relations, Tajikistan has adopted in May 2005 a new resolution granting visas to citizens of 68 countries including the US. Within just three days from the date of application, visas can be obtained. It is so much easier to come in today. We’ve also adopted new initiatives for tourism investment with laws giving investors attractive tax breaks dependent on the size and equal to the life in years of investment.”
So far, no US company has invested in Tajikistan’s tourism industry even though the largest project ever introduced to the republic was by the Americans who constructed the new $30 million bridge of Panjipoion, which connects Tajikistan to Afghanistan. Since this is a landlocked country, this bridge avails access to Afghanistan, Pakistan and then to the seaports. “This is one international bridge which will not address individual, separate projects but will lead us to improved communications with Afghanistan and Pakistan as we are now structurally connected,” Nematov said. “The bridge makes life easier for us today with routes to Afghanistan shorter at 500 kilometers and to Pakistan, at 1200 kilometers,” he added.
On being a former part of the Soviet Union, Nematov said: “There is enough good going around in our republic. Safety is guaranteed not only for Americans, but also for all. For one, the US Embassy is stationed in Tajikistan in the modern industrial city of Dushanbe in the Gissar Valley. In 2004, Dushanbe was declared the city of peace by UNESCO. While some of our Tajik experts visit the US, there are lots of US tourists entering the republic from China and Kyrgyztan which proves the country is quite safe and has no inconvenient political restrictions. There are no travel warnings, as well.” As proof of an accepted level of safety in Tajikistan, he cited the recent US delegation headed by US State Secretary Condoleeza Rice and the attendance at the opening of the international bridge by a number of US Department of Trade and Commerce officials and delegates.
Nematov proudly invites tourists to Tajikistan. “We have an open-door policy and welcome all. With cultivating our external affairs, Tajikistan embraces open doors, ready to receive all foreign guests. No untoward incidence involving tourists, no terrorist acts has ever happened in the republic,” he said.
The Tajik official the country being in close proximity to insurgent bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan raises a lot of questions and concerns with regard to insurgent bases Afghanistan and Pakistan. He, however, noted that after the conflicts during the civil war of 1997, Tajikistan has no reported terrorism attack on tourists. Only one tourist died years ago but from a road accident. Other than that, terror has not found its way into Dushanbe, he said.
Nematov also pointed out the presence of the Embassy of the Republic in the United States and their representative to the United Nations headquarters, allaying fears about the Panjipoion bridge’s potential link to fundamentalist forces operating in Kabul or Karachi.
“As we have observed, American visitors to the country do enjoy the natural, historical, cultural, architectural and social offers of Tajikistan. We welcome them all,” the Tajik official closed.