Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan – Representatives of four tourism companies exhibited at the World Travel Market (WTM), one of the world’s largest tourism shows that takes place annually in London. From November 2-5, members of the Kyrgyz Association of Tour Operators (KATO) met with potential partners, discussed foreign tourist expectations, scouted global competitors, and signed contracts with several European counterparts. The exhibit was organized with USAID’s support through its Business Growth Initiative (BGI) project.
“Participation at the WTM helped Kyrgyz companies to expand partnerships with outbound tour operators, who will now market Kyrgyzstan to their client base in Europe,” said Aliya Kydyrmaeva, one of the participants.
KATO members – Novi Nomad, Tian-Shan Travel Company, Edelweis Travel Company and Ak Sai Travel – met with 85 potential partners, 50 of which were the result of participating in a speed networking session, a key feature of the WTM that brought together more than 1,400 exhibitors and 300 senior buyers from tour companies.
Kyrgyz firms signed six contracts with European partners, nearly all from the UK, and are in discussions with many other contacts that they met during WTM 2015. The new partners and the Kyrgyz firms are developing joint marketing approaches to increase the number of European tourists that will be coming to Kyrgyzstan in the upcoming summer season.
Participation in the event helped to identify that foreign partners are primarily interested in Kyrgyzstan for mountain climbing, trekking, and package tours with Uzbekistan for Silk Road experiences. The group also met with representatives of the international media interested in highlighting Kyrgyzstan as a tourism destination.
WTM annually brings together more than 50,000 industry professionals and representatives from tourism destinations, travel industry specialists, government officials, and international media organizations, to promote destinations, network, and conclude sales contracts for providing travel services to partners around the world.
USAID supported participation of Kyrgyz tour operators in the WTM to raise the profile of Kyrgyzstan’s tourism sector and help the companies to establish global business contacts among outbound tour operators.
“It is important for Kyrgyzstan to show the world who we are and what we have to offer,” said Emilia Salieva, BGI Tourism Program Manager. “One thing we found out is that there is growing interest in Central Asia as a new tourism destination.”
The USAID BGI project will continue to work with Kyrgyz tour operators to follow up on key leads, monitor business resulting from participation, and implement other activities to promote Kyrgyzstan as a key destination in generally unexplored Central Asia.
The USAID Business Growth Initiative is a four-year, multi-faceted project that builds and strengthens the competitiveness of Kyrgyz firms and value chains to promote business growth, job creation and economic development.