PATA CEO Dr.Mario Hardy on Kazakh tourism: you have a very diverse product to offer
While Dr.Mario Hardy, Chief Executive Officer at the Pacific Asia Travel Association, was sitting down with the Strategy2050.kz journalist, he told about Kazakhstan’s tourism, spoke about what he liked about Kazakhstan during his three visits to our country, and shared his views on cities with old and modern buildings.
- What’s in store for Kazakhstan’s tourism?
- I think there are great things for Kazakh tourism. The product is already here. I have been to other destinations in recent time, where there is no product, there is nothing already prepared and developed to offer. They have to start from scratch. In your case, you have the landscape, fresh air, the mountains, the lakes, and the culture. Everything is already in place, everything is already there. The product just needs to be developed any further from what you have. However, you need to market it. KazakhTourism needs to get sufficient funding necessary from the Government to go and actually market the destinations to the rest of the world so people know what it is and what you have to offer. I think you start from that and you will see your number grow. And the visa facilitation is also a key. Make it as easy as possible for people to have a visa free or add online visas as it is easy for people to process because it is very competitive. You do not need much just a little bit to facilitate visas, investment in marketing and you will grow, and this country will receive many tourists.
- As you have said earlier this is your third visit to Kazakhstan. What it is like to stay in Kazakhstan?
- I came twice in winter, it was very cold. But I do not mind because I came from the cold country. I was born in Canada. So it is a completely different experience during different seasons. I have spent a last few days in Almaty and I truly enjoyed it. It is a beautiful city, there are many interesting things to do. Outside the city the views, the mountains are beautiful, the lakes, the colors are incredible. So, we really had a good time. We were walking the streets, going to the market, the parks, visiting different locations and sites. And it is only one infinite part of everything else you have to offer in the country. It was a very enjoyable experience. This is not my last visit to Kazakhstan. I do want to come back for much longer to go and explore the rest of the country.
- You have only visited the major cities of our country. How to attract people to other parts of the country?
- I think what I mentioned before is to market the entire country, its various destinations. Your Government has already identified ten destinations of the country that they want to focus their attention. I think that is a right approach. That is a very large country and there is a lot to offer. If you want to develop tourism sustainably and responsibly you should start some work and then defining destinations to focus on is probably a right approach until you reach a certain capacity and then you need to go and expand other destinations, so you spread even more. Many other countries in Asia that have not done this in the beginning are suffering from having too many tourists in some locations, not enough in other locations. You are still at the very early stage of tourism development as the country. You have a great opportunity to identify certain areas you want to focus on until you have a capacity to expand it any further, to develop the infrastructure, develop human capital in these destinations before you start promoting it.
- Do you prefer a city with old and historic buildings or a city with modern structures, high-rises?
- I am interested in both. I have enjoyed Almaty, maybe because it is the cultural capital, which it was for a long time. The architecture is a little more different and interesting for us. But in Europe everything is new, the architecture, the shapes of the buildings are all interesting. I am interested in technology, maybe I a little bit unique. But I truly enjoyed spending time at the renewable energy museum in the EXPO, just seeing the future technology that is already available and seeing the technology being used across the city here. So, for people who are interested in architecture, design, technology, it is a great modern city to see how you implement these new technologies into a smart, living city. You country is large. You can spend time in Almaty and enjoy the local culture. One thing that I enjoyed most in Almaty is that there were people singing in the streets, dancing and performing. It was fun, it was interesting. I came here I experienced new technology, new design, architecture. And it is also interesting. I might actually visit one of the smaller villages and will have a completely different experience. So, either you target the audience who wants to experience all of it or some may be interested in part of it and this is the beauty of what you have to offer. You have a very diverse product to offer.