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Kazakhstan becoming popular with tourists

By Mao Weihua in Urumqi and Chen Meiling | China Daily | Updated: 2024-07-11 09:23

This photo taken on July 2, 2024 shows a view of the city skyline at sunset in Astana, Kazakhstan. [Photo/Xinhua]

Traveling to Kazakhstan via land ports in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has become increasingly popular among Chinese tourists because it is cheap and convenient, with the regional government and companies developing more travel products to meet tourists' needs.

Although Kazakhstan is not among the top 10 overseas destinations for Chinese tourists, its popularity is increasing thanks to a visa-exemption policy launched in November, as well as more frequent people-to-people exchanges encouraged by both countries.

Kairat Sadvakassov, chairman of the Kazakh Tourism National Company, said at a conference in May in Urumqi, Xinjiang's regional capital, that about 500,000 Chinese tourists visited Kazakhstan last year, most of whom were from Xinjiang.

The number will keep growing and it will bring people closer and open more opportunities for trade cooperation, he said.

From January to May, Alashankou, which has one of Xinjiang's five land ports on the Kazakhstan border, received 347,300 tourist visits, with tourism consumption reaching 150 million yuan ($20 million).

Da Jilin, director of Alashankou's culture, sports, radio, television and tourism bureau, said most of the outbound tourists, mainly from major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Guangdong province, are interested in exploring niche countries and experiencing exotic cultures.

"Kazakhstan features cathedrals, mosques and European-style buildings," Da said. "There are rich cultural resources, traditional ethnic music and handmade embroidery that appeal to tourists. Furthermore, Lake Alakol offers shooting and hunting grounds, which attract young people looking for the excitement of using real firearms."

The unique mud baths at the lake are said to have therapeutic effects, he said.

Bi Shengping was one of 19 tourists from Dexing, Jiangxi province, who joined a 15-day tour of Xinjiang and Kazakhstan in mid-June. They first visited Sayram Lake in the Bortala Mongolian autonomous prefecture in Xinjiang, left China through Alashankou to Kazakhstan for Lake Alakol, and returned to visit the Kanas scenic area in Altay, Xinjiang.

"The exotic scenery is incredibly natural, with the beautiful Lake Alakol and the surrounding environment blending harmoniously," Bi said. "The local people are very warm and hospitable.

"The staff of a local museum explained the local customs, cultural development and history to us. The museum director played music, sang folk songs, and we were deeply moved. We tasted local delicacies and learned local dances, which brought us great joy and happiness."

Liu Jiying, who is in charge of the Dexing branch of the online travel agency Ctrip, which organized the tour, said it's a new travel product.

"Currently, the number of inquiries is not very high," Liu said. "We will deepen cooperation with Kazakhstan to explore appealing products."

Alashankou has cross-border buses to Kazakhstan from Monday to Saturday, with a ticket price of about 100 yuan per person.

The city has launched different travel products for one-day, three-day, four-day and seven-day tours. It plans to increase the routes and frequency of international buses, hire more bilingual tour guides and develop more travel products to promote tourism, Da said.

Zheng Jinyuan, deputy director of the inspection department of Jeminay Customs, said that at Jeminay port in Altay, the number of inbound and outbound travelers increased from 150 to 230 a day after the visa-free policy was introduced.

It takes about one hour to reach Zaysan county in Kazakhstan. Travelers can take the international buses or drive across the border.

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