Serzhan ABDYKARIMOV, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Czech Republic and to the Slovak Republic
Czech Republic: the Success of the Tourist Cluster and Experience for Kazakhstan
Being a country with a high level of development of the tourism business, the Czech Republic is valuable to Kazakhstan to study its experience and deepen cooperation in the sphere of tourism.
Annually, more than 10 million tourists visit the Czech Republic, including about 100,000 Kazakh travellers. In order to serve such a significant amount of guests, the country has qualified personnel, an experience of attracting foreign tourists and a developed tourism infrastructure. An enormous role in the development of the tourist business in the Czech Republic is played by the availability of a wide network of transport connections with many countries of the world, primarily the availability of direct flights.
From year to year, the flow of Kazakh citizens coming to the Czech Republic for study, tourism, medical treatment, etc. is growing. Currently, more than 2,000 Kazakh students are studying at universities of the Czech Republic and their number is increasing every year. Mutual business trips are growing as well. Czech tourists are beginning to show more interest in the tourist attractions of Kazakhstan.
Possessing a rich natural diversity and unique complexes of historical and architectural monuments, Kazakhstan has all the prerequisites to become one of the centres of Eurasian tourism.
Today, Kazakhstan has become a recognisable country on the international arena. Undoubtedly, holding political, economic and cultural forums and the organisation of international sporting events became the essential components for acquiring that image. A powerful image-making tool of 2017 was the holding of the international exhibition EXPO Astana, which allowed attracting foreign tourists and reaching a broad audience in the global information space.
Great work was done on the global presentation of Kazakhstan as a politically and economically stable country with rich national and religious diversity. In this regard, a further concentration of efforts is needed to maximise the attraction of foreign tourists to Kazakhstan and to include our country on the list of popular tourist routes in the leading world guidebooks – www.turism.world, www.worldtravelguide.net, www.fodors.com, etc. Unquestionably, the visa preferences for citizens of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, implemented on January 1, 2017, had a dominant effect in attracting tourists.
The creation of Kazakh Tourism in 2017 was certainly timely, since the main task of the company is to promote the tourist potential of Kazakhstan abroad and attract investment to this industry. In order to accomplish the goals and objectives set before Kazakh Tourism, the experience of the Czech Republic in the development of its tourist cluster seems to be very interesting.
Priority areas for bilateral cooperation and the exchange of best practices include medical tourism, congress tourism, hunting and fishing tourism and domestic tourism.
Medical tourism. The Czech Republic is actively developing and promoting medical tourism. The interest of foreigners in medical treatment in the Czech Republic is steadily growing. Laser eye surgery, plastic surgery, dental services and artificial insemination are the most successful. High quality and prices lower than in more western countries constitute serious competition in Europe.
The achievements of the Czech Republic in the treatment of cancer are also noteworthy. Czech scientists have obtained a patent for a new method of treating head and neck cancer. Studies are proceeding successfully and a new method of treatment is expected to be introduced in the next 10-15 years. This method proved to be useful for wound healing. Another achievement of Czech scientists in oncology can be called revolutionary. Thanks to the invented DNA vaccine, which will activate the human immune system, it will be possible to avoid the recurrence of cancer.
The Czech Republic is at the forefront in opening new methods of treatment and not only the ones in oncology. For example, Czech cardiologists have created a new method for using angioplasty in the treatment of myocardial infarction. In the Czech Republic, every cardiology centre now has equipment for treating infarction using this technique, which increases the number of cured patients by 5 percent.
Besides, Czech doctors occupy the leading position in the early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes. Some procedures that have to be paid independently all over the world (for example, the installation of an insulin pump) are carried out under insurance in the Czech Republic.
Considering the list of the most common diseases in the Czech Republic compiled by the Czech Statistical Office, where cardiovascular diseases takes first place, the possibility of attracting Czech citizens for the treatment of the aforementioned diseases in leading Kazakh clinics could be considered as a potential area for cooperation in the field of medical tourism.
The travel of representatives of Kazakh sanatoriums and clinics is continuing to study the Czech experience in the field of balneological treatment. Many people mention Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázně in speaking about the resorts in the Czech Republic, but among the Czech people resorts such as Behina (locomotor system), Františkov Lázně (cardiovascular disease), Jáchymov (locomotor system) and Janske Lazne (general recovery of the body) are more popular. Our organisations working on unique balneological resorts (Arasan-Kapal, Barlyk-Arasan, Borovoe, Saryagash, etc.) could send specialists to the Czech Republic to study best practices and implement this experience in Kazakhstan.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest by Czech manufacturers and suppliers of medical equipment and technologies in the Kazakhstan market. The most priority areas of cooperation in the field of medical tourism are cardiology, oncology and balneology and participation in medical exhibitions.
Congress tourism (business tourism). Considering the availability of a modern infrastructure in Kazakhstan (congress and conference halls, business centres, the infrastructure of EXPO 2017, etc.), the experience of the Czech Republic in the field of congress tourism can be of particular interest to the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Congress halls with a total capacity of 50,000 seats are assembled in Prague. The same number of guests can simultaneously accommodate about 400 Prague hotels. The Prague Congress Centre has 20 rooms and 50 auditoriums with a capacity of 12-27,00 people. In addition to Prague, many regional cities in the Czech Republic (Brno, Ostrava) and the famous resorts (Karlovy Vary, Teplice) have great opportunities for holding congresses and business meetings. An important role in the development of business tourism is played by the Czech castles and palaces (Dobris, Kroměříž, Sikhrov). All Czech hotels offering congress and conference rooms provide international service.
When advertising business and tourism opportunities in the Czech Republic, particular emphasis is placed on scenic landscapes and a variety of accompanying programmes and entertainment that allow making an individual plan for each client. On the territory of the country, there are a large number of various historical and architectural monuments, which brought a new trend – cognitive tourism.
The combination of business meetings with relaxation trips is very popular, offering hiking and biking trails and trips to family farms in the framework of agritourism, which have recently become very popular in Europe. The picturesque nature of Kazakhstan makes it possible to implement the above-mentioned ideas and opportunities on the territory of our country.
The Czech Republic already understands the growing promise of congress tourism. Despite the competition, thanks to the combined efforts of the state the Prague Congress Centre won the competition for holding the NATO summit, which was held in November 2002. The Government of the Czech Republic plans to spend a certain part of the funds coming from the European Union (EU) on the development of business tourism in the regions of the country.
To inform the world about the business opportunities of the country, the Czech Congress Tourism Association was founded, which has a huge database of places suitable for negotiating, concluding deals and organising conferences. Every year at international tourism fairs, the association includes in its plan a presentation of Czech tourism opportunities.
Hunting and fishing tourism. The Czech Republic is one of the few countries in Europe where it is still possible to hunt without excessive legislative restrictions. The most demanding hunters from all over the world are satisfied by hunting in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic was famous in the Middle Ages for its natural conditions and rich hunting grounds. Rich hunting traditions in the country were developed and supported not only by aristocrats (in particular, by the well-known Archduke Franz Ferdinand d'Este), but also by local hunter societies. Hunting had a big impact on the Czech culture in painting, music, architecture and cinema. Hunting customs and traditions in this country are not forgotten and were passed down from generation to generation and ancient hunting rituals have survived to this day. It has become, in a way, a visiting card of the Czech Republic, attracting thousands of hunters from all over the world every year. The Czech Republic is also known for its high quality of hunting trophies.
As for fishing tourism in the Czech Republic, there are a large number of water reservoirs where a variety of fish species are bred and can be caught. The most popular water reservoirs are Elba at the borders, Hněvkovice Pond, Hracholusky, Jezera near Harrachov, Kamenice nad Decin, Lake Lipno, Lipno and Orlik river basins, Morava, Mušov water reservoir, Nechranice, Otava u Strshel, Silesian Harta, Skalka-u-Heba Sušici, Upper Orlice and Vltava near Czech Budejovice. It is noteworthy that more and more international fishing competitions are held in this country.
Kazakhstan has a huge natural potential for the development of hunting and fishing tourism. In this regard, it seems useful for Kazakhstan to learn from Czech hunting associations and regional unions. In 2016, an agreement on cooperation was signed between Kansonar, the Republican Association of Hunters' Unions and Hunting Entities, and the Czech Association for Conservation of Wildlife and Hunting. Kazakhstan can offer exotic tourist products to Czech lovers of hunting and fishing: hound hunting for a bird, a wolf, a bear, a fox; falconry hunting and much more.
Domestic tourism. One of the important directions of the work of the Czech government is the development of national domestic tourism. The country has a programme for supporting domestic tourism which is divided into five main areas of work: 1) strengthening the cooperation of CzechTourism with the regions, with the subsequent joint development of new tourist products and their promotion; 2) propaganda of domestic tourism among the population; 3) transborder incoming – development of tourist products for border regions together with bordering states (Austria, Germany, Poland and Slovakia) and creation of conditions for mutual increase of tourist flows between the border regions of the countries; 4) advertising campaigns in the media, including the dissemination of information through social networks and blogs and 5) coordination of work with the owners of regional tourist projects.
The main task is to diversify the subsectors of the tourism business and involve the maximum number of regions and population groups in it.
In Kazakhstan, there are great prospects for the development of domestic tourism, taking into account the rich tourist and recreational potential. Along with the existing prerequisites of large domestic markets and diverse picturesque natural landscapes from canyons to dense forests, new ones are being created; within the framework of state programmes, transport and service infrastructures are being developed, conditions for doing business are facilitated and control functions for micro, small and medium-sized businesses are decreasing, etc. A developed market for domestic tourism, based on competitive pricing policies and a high level of service, will be able to count on a constant income. The domestic consumer should become the main investor in the national tourism industry. Some interesting ideas can be borrowed from our Czech colleagues.