The 25th session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization kicked off in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, with an inaugural address from President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The president welcomed delegates from across the globe to the historical city of Samarkand, lauding its rich cultural heritage and role as a significant tourist center in Uzbekistan.
President Mirziyoyev acknowledged the challenges faced by the tourism sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing the importance of tourism’s contribution to the global economy. He stated, “Tourism is one of the most rapidly developing and promising sectors of the world economy, accounting for about 10 percent of the world’s GDP and 7 percent of its exports before the pandemic.”
The President highlighted the resilience of the tourism industry, with nearly one billion tourists traveling internationally last year, representing 70 percent of the pre-pandemic levels. He expressed hope for further growth in the sector this year.
In his address, President Mirziyoyev underlined Uzbekistan’s commitment to developing its tourism industry, with a focus on creating jobs and enhancing cultural exchanges. “Every dollar invested in the sector will bring 3-4 times as more profit in the future,” he said.
The President also shared Uzbekistan’s efforts to promote tourism, including visa-free access for citizens of approximately one hundred countries and a simplified electronic visa system for citizens of 55 other countries. The government has provided various incentives for tourism businesses, leading to the implementation of 800 infrastructure projects despite pandemic restrictions.
Furthermore, Uzbekistan has doubled the number of foreign tourists visiting the country, with revenues from tourist exports increasing fourfold. The President has ambitious plans to attract even more tourists, with a goal of 15 million visitors by 2030.
In terms of infrastructure development, President Mirziyoyev announced a strategy for comprehensive tourism development, with a particular focus on modernizing transport infrastructure. He emphasized the creation of more high-speed trains and the construction of new railroads, as well as upgrading airports and increasing the number of flights.
To further promote cultural tourism, the President revealed plans to increase the number of cultural heritage sites attracting tourists, restore hundreds of cultural heritage sites, and establish “open-air museums” at 20 monuments.
President Mirziyoyev also made several proposals to deepen international cooperation. He suggested the development of a Global Safe Tourism Code to address tourists’ security issues, the creation of the International Program of Action for the development of Green Tourism, and the declaration of 2025 as the “World Inclusive Tourism Year.”
Moreover, the President proposed the establishment of a Council of Historical Cities for Tourism under the World Tourism Organization and the initiation of a Global Youth Tourism Summit in Tashkent. He invited international participation in the Global Media Campus for journalists, bloggers, and media representatives.
In a significant gesture, President Mirziyoyev called for Samarkand to be declared the World Cultural Tourism Capital. This designation, he believes, would be a fitting tribute to the ancient city’s historical significance and its enduring legacy of tolerance and hospitality.
The 25th UNWTO Assembly, attended by Tourism Ministers and stakeholders from member states, promises to be a platform for discussions on the state of the global tourism industry and its future direction. President Mirziyoyev’s address and proposals highlight Uzbekistan’s dedication to tourism development and its commitment to the sector’s growth and sustainability.
The Assembly is set to discuss and adopt various documents and agreements to further contribute to the development of the global tourism industry and promote international cooperation. The Investment and Education Forums will serve as vital platforms to present promising investment projects and showcase the rich cultural and historical heritage of various regions.