By Samantha Tan

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Tajikistan, a landlocked country in Central Asia is intensifying tourism promotion to lure Malaysian tourists, following the easing of border crossing amidst its thawing relations with neighbouring Uzbekistan, says Tajikistan’s Ambassador to Malaysia, Dr Muzaffar Muhammadi.

He said every year between 50,000 and 60,000 Malaysians visited Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Unfortunately, there were problems in crossing their borders which had been closed for almost 25 years due to their ‘frosty’ relationship. Hence, there is difficulty for tourists to visit Tajikistan, he said.

Tajikistan hopes to capture at least 50 per cent of the total Malaysian tourists. In the next three to five years, we expect to attract at least 25,000 to 30,000 people to visit Tajikistan,” Muhammadi told Bernama in an interview here recently.

The relationship between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan is currently taking on a warm note. This was indicative when Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power following the death of his predecessor, Islam Karimov in 2016, and voiced out his government’s commitment in forging better relations with Uzbekistan’s Central Asian neighbours.

During the autocratic Karimov’s 27-year rule in Central Asia’s most populous nation, its relations with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan were strained by disputes over transit routes, border security, water resources and other issues.

It was reported that on Jan 10 this year, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan both agreed to visa-free travel and other border-crossing measures. On March 1, the 10 border crossing points re-opened along the Tajik-Uzbek border, having been closed for more than 10 years.

Muhammadi said Tajikistan would be a preferred destination for visitors, especially from Malaysia, due to the closeness of its capital, Dushanbe, to Uzbekistan’s Tashkent.

The two are neighbours and it only takes about an hour’s drive to reach their borders.

Meanwhile, in an effort to further flourish Tajikistan’s tourism industry, he said the government was keen to work with Malaysia’s tour operators to include his country in their Central Asia tour packages.

This would in turn, benefit the tourists with cheaper packages, saving their time and also enabling them to explore more than one country in the central region of Asia.

Furthermore, Muhammadi said the year, 2018 was declared the Year of Tourism and Folk Crafts in Tajikistan by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon as the tourism industry was an important area to help expand people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

Following the efforts, the envoy said his embassy was planning to organise a tourism seminar in August in collaboration with Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to gather travel agencies and tour operators from both countries to discuss the possible cooperation in developing the tourism sector.

Besides that, he said Tajikistan’s tourism industry was interested to learn from Malaysia’s tourism facility development experiences in lieu of its success in attracting 25 million to 30 million tourists annually.

“Malaysia has tremendous experience in tourism infrastructure. We want to learn and also bring Malaysian experts (to Tajikistan) to assist us in developing the infrastructure.

Tajikistan is a mountainous country and therefore, it needs to build good infrastructure on hilly places. Malaysian firms can assist us to build facilities like cable cars, like the one in Genting Highlands or Langkawi,” he added.

Although Tajikistan’s tourism is not so developed, it’s enormous potential tourist attraction should not be neglected.

Despite its relatively small land area, its tourism industry is gaining popularity as Tajikistan boasts of four seasons due to the country’s mountainous topography.

Tajikistan is home to some of the highest mountains in the world, including the Pamir and Alay ranges, as well as the Sarez Lake in the Rushon district of Gorno-Badakhshan province, which was formed in 1911 after a great earthquake when the Murghab River was blocked by a big landslide.

Source: NAM News Network

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