Address by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Speech by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the 25th session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization

Dear secretary general!
Distinguished heads of delegations!
Ladies and gentlemen!

It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to the opening ceremony of the 25th session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization.

The fact that the anniversary meeting of our Organization is being held in this ancient city of Samarkand, the pearl of the Great Silk Road and a large tourist center of New Uzbekistan, has a deep symbolic meaning.

This unique city located at the crossroads of world civilizations has for centuries been a true center of trade, science and culture connecting East and West.

This eternal city, the coeval of the famous Rome, the capital of great empires, the land, where the great scholars, thinkers, and saints have thrived, always evokes pride in us.

Today, Samarkand, known as the “Pearl of the Earth”, the city, which greatly contributed to the development of the two great epochs of the Eastern Renaissance, is becoming one of the modern tourist centers of the world.

The fact that this magnificent city is hosting this high-profile international event is a vivid confirmation of our statement.

Welcome to the ancient and eternally young city of Samarkand, dear friends!

Dear participants of the forum!

It is well-known that tourism is one of the most rapidly developing and promising sectors of the world economy. The processes of globalization have opened up wide opportunities for the free movement of people around the world.

According to the World Tourism Council, before the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism sector accounted for about 10 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and 7 percent of its exports.

Unfortunately, the pandemic severely hit this sector.

As a result, tourism export revenues have significantly reduced and millions of jobs were lost.

Thanks to the systemic work carried out by the World Tourism Organization and the governments of the countries that you represent, today, the global tourism is now reviving.

Through the joint efforts and close cooperation of all countries, this sector has demonstrated its flexibility and resilience in the face of new challenges and threats.

Last year, across the world, nearly one billion tourists traveled to a foreign country. This accounted for nearly 70 percent of the pre-pandemic level. It is expected that this year, this figure will grow even more.

Given the current complex situation, many countries are relying on the tourism industry to revitalize their economies and address urging social problems. The global competition is becoming fierce.

Certainly, it is not by chance: you all well realize that every dollar invested in the sector will bring 3-4 times as more profit in the future. Meanwhile, every new job created in tourism enables the creation of 2 new jobs in other sectors.

In this sense, it would be true to say that tourism is a key factor that ensures common prosperity and sustainable development of our countries. At the same time, tourism is a powerful tool that enhances cultural exchanges between the peoples of the world and strengthens the principles of tolerance.

Dear participants of the forum!

We fully support the active efforts of our Organization to dynamically develop tourism in all regions of the world and turn it into one of the drivers of the world economy.

We commend its new approaches in the sector, specific measures on drastically improving the quality of services, and the strong emphasis on infrastructure projects.

Particularly, the Organization’s aspirations to place tourism at the top of the global agenda, to enhance the educational potential, to increase the share of the tourism sector in poverty reduction and to strengthen multilateral partnerships also correspond to our common goals.

It should be emphasized that in recent years the World Tourism Organization has become our reliable and long-term strategic partner in fully untapping New Uzbekistan’s tourism potential.

In recent period, joint measures for safe tourism in our country have been developed, the start-up projects are underway. Our cities have been hosting regional forums of the Organization.

You are well aware that in recent years, we have been implementing extensive and irreversible program of reforms in Uzbekistan.

As part of this process, we are focusing on strengthening the institutes of democratic society, liberalization of the economy, and improving the living standards of our people.

We are placing priority to the tourism sector in our “open doors policy”.

We have granted a visa-free regime to the nationals of around one hundred countries. A simplified electronic visa system has been introduced for the nationals of 55 other countries as well.

We have created favorable conditions for doing business in all subsectors of tourism. We have provided tax and customs benefits and strengthened credit and financial support.

The subsidies are being allocated for the construction of new hotels, and attraction of international brands, as well as to increase the tourist flows.

Thanks to this, despite the pandemic restrictions, we have implemented 800 infrastructure projects in two years.

Over $1 billion have been invested in improving tourism infrastructure in the city of Samarkand alone.

The “Ipak Yuli” Tourist Center, which is hosting today’s forum is one of these large projects.

In addition, the tourist police have been established to ensure the safety and security of tourists.

The “Amirsoy” winter resort, the “Valley of Legends”, “Zomin” and “Chorvok” zones have become international tourist destinations, attracting the attention of many foreign visitors.

Tourist villages showcasing the traditional lifestyle and unique handicrafts are being established.

The number of hotel beds has reached 140 thousand, 70 new tourist routes have been launched, and 6 private airlines have begun operating in order to ensure favorable conditions for tourists.

We attach great significance to training specialists in the field of tourism. Thirty-five institutes of higher education in Uzbekistan train qualified specialists on the basis of international standards.

Students from 19 countries study at the Samarkand “Silk Road” International University of Tourism and Cultural Heritage.

The number of foreign tourists traveling to Uzbekistan has doubled. Revenues from tourist exports have increased 4 times.

For example, this year the number of tourists from Japan has increased 5 times, from India and Italy – 3.5 times, from the United States – 2 times.

According to estimates, a total of 7 million tourists will visit our country by the end of this year. By 2030, we intend to increase this figure to 15 million and domestic tourist flow to 25 million.

Ladies and gentlemen!

Our large-scale efforts are being recognized by the international community.

In particular, Uzbekistan is ranked in the list of “the fastest growing tourist destinations” by the World Tourism Organization, and takes the leading positions in the list of “the safest country for tourism” of the famous social survey company Gallup.

In addition, our country won in the nominations “Discovery of the Year” and “Gastronomic Tourism” of the U.S. magazine “National Geographic Traveler”.

Last year, Uzbekistan was recognized as “the strongest tourist destination” in the “Global Muslim Tourism Index”.

Dear participants of the session!

We have set big goals and plans for ourselves, and in this respect we are committed to closely working with you.

We are developing a 2030 Strategy for Comprehensive Development of Tourism.

In this context, we will attach priority to the creation of modern tourist and transport infrastructure as a key direction.

Six more high-speed trains will be commissioned on the routes “Tashkent – Samarkand” and “Navoiy – Bukhara”, and 600 kilometers of additional railroads will be built.

A high-speed train will run an-route “Tashkent-Khiva” from 2025, and this route will be extended to the city of Nukus by 2026.

In addition, “Tashkent-Samarkand” and “Tashkent-Andijan” toll roads will be built on a PPP basis.

As a result, the time of reaching the destination on these routes will be halved.

By 2030, we will add 56 modern aircraft to our fleet and increase the number of jets to 100.

In addition, the number of flights will increase by 4 times.

The “Open Sky” regime will be introduced in all airports, six major airports in the regions will be renovated on PPP basis.

In addition, 30 major tourism clusters will be set up in each major city and tourist destinations.

We will also attach significant attention to enhancing the potential of cultural tourism in our country.

Today, there are more than 8 thousand cultural heritage sites in Uzbekistan.

Over 200 of our tangible and 6 intangible sites are included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.

As part of the national program “Masterpieces of Ancient History”:

– the number of cultural heritage sites attracting tourists will be increased from 800 to 2.5 thousand;

– 745 cultural heritage sites will be restored;

– “open-air museums” will be set up in 20 monuments.

As part of the Ziyarat (Pilgrimage) Tourism Program, we will increase the number of visitors three-fold.

Toward this noble goal, we are expanding a geography of these sacred pilgrimage sites and developing their single map.

I believe that the magnificent architectural complex constructed in Samarkand in memory of our religious scholar Imam Bukhari will be one of our major projects in this regard.

The creation of joint tourist routes with the countries of our region, the expansion of transport and logistics capacities in Central Asia, including the implementation of the “One Tour, Entire Region” program, are at the core of our focus.

In a word, we aim to create at least one million new jobs in the future through our work on developing medical, ecological, gastronomic, ethno, extreme and other types of tourism.

Dear participants of the forum!

The fact that Samarkand is hosting the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization – a significant event in the global tourism industry, is a great historical occasion for the entire Central Asian region.

I am confident that this international forum will further expand cooperation between the Organization’s member-states and yet enhance its dynamics.

I would like to make the following proposals to comprehensively deepen our relations.

First, the most pressing issue for the world tourism sector is to ensure a guaranteed system of tourists’ security.

The conflicts and instability observed in different regions of the world, today have detrimental effect on the development on the sector even more than the pandemic.

Unfortunately, as a consequence of these factors:

1. the tourism potential and the number of tourists on popular and traditional destinations are sharply declining;

2. the risks and threats associated with safe tourism are continuously increasing;

3. its negative impact is also spreading to neighbouring regions;

4. global cultural heritage sites and ancient architectural monuments are being ruined and some of them are even being wiped out from the Earth.

In order to avert such dire cases, we must unite all our efforts and endeavours.

Considering the current complex situation, in order to consolidate the firm legal framework in the international tourism sector, I propose to initiate the development of a Global Safe Tourism Code under the guidance of the United Nations.

Second, in the era of increasing climate change, the adoption of the International Program of Action for the development of Green Tourism is more urgent than ever.

We also propose to establish the nomination “The Best City Promoting Green Tourism” within the Organization.

We intend to create with the support of the UNWTO a Global Green Tourism Startups’ Laboratory in cooperation with the Central Asian Green University, which recently started operating, and the “Silk Road” International University in Samarkand.

We are ready to provide grants for the organisation of the best innovative solutions.

We invite all member states and international organizations to join this project.

Third, in order to further strengthen the enabling environment for tourists with disabilities and the development of inclusive tourism infrastructure, we put forward the initiative to declare the year of 2025 as the “World Inclusive Tourism Year” within our Organization and adopt a special declaration.

Fourth, it is expedient to establish a Council of Historical Cities for Tourism under the World Tourism Organization.

This platform allows to increase the flow of tourists to cultural heritage sites, exchange the best practices in the preservation of historical monuments, and develop recommendations and effective solutions.

We are ready to organize the first meeting of the Council in the ancient city of Bukhara.

Fifth, today, in Samarkand, we have inaugurated the International Tourism Academy of the World Tourism Organization – a unique education centre, which offers training and advanced training of specialists in the field of tourism.

I am confident that this Academy will become a global educational hub and make a significant contribution to the further development of the world tourism industry.

From the next academic year, Uzbekistan will provide special scholarships for talented specialists and invite representatives of your countries to actively participate in this program.

Sixth, I hope that you will support our initiative to hold the Global Youth Tourism Summit in Tashkent to be organized in close cooperation with the Organization.

I am confident that this forum will offer an important and useful space for our youth to create the tourism development projects and generate new ideas.

Seventh, we propose to establish special International Award of the Organization for contribution to the development of the “Ipak Yuli” (‘Silk Road’) brand.

We believe that the Thematic Office for Tourism on Silk Road jointly opened today with the World Tourism Organization, can actively participate in the implementation of this plan.

Yet one another matter. I would like to draw your attention to the active promoters of tourism sector – journalists, bloggers and media representatives.

Our Organization shall play an active role in bringing together the immense power and potential of these talented and selfless creators by setting up additional platforms.

In this regard, we believe it is time to create a Global Media Campus that will bring together leading media, journalists and top travel bloggers.

It will be expedient to hold such media forums biennially as part the regular sessions of the General Assembly.

We are ready to host the first edition Media Campus in our country.

Ladies and gentlemen!

During the Conference you will have an opportunity to closely learn the ancient history of Samarkand, its rich culture, unique beauty, as well as customs and traditions of our people.

This magnificent city, which attracts millions of national and international tourists from all corners of the world, is a real jewel of the “Silk Road.”

I believe that you, dear guests, will support our initiative to declare Samarkand as the World Cultural Tourism Capital and adopt the relevant Declaration.

This prestigious title would be worth for the ancient name of Samarkand, which has been preserving its uniqueness and incomparable heritage for centuries, and which is renowned all over the world for its tolerance and hospitality.

Dear friends!

There is no doubt that the documents and agreements to be adopted at this world tourism organization’s general assembly session will make a significant contribution to the rapid development of the global tourism industry.

I am confident that the investment and education forums held as part of the general assembly will become an effective platform for interaction of all world tour operators, universities and major companies.

These forums showcase the rich historical and cultural heritage of all our regions, demonstrate the full potential of tourism opportunities, and present a set of promising investment projects.

I encourage you all to actively participate in these events.

I believe that all of you will rediscover new uzbekistan, and that this visit will leave unforgettable impressions in your hearts.

Uzbekistan’s doors are always open for you, our dear friends, and you will always be our dear guests.

I wish every success and the best of luck to the session of the general assembly.

Thank you for your attention.

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