China’s economic growth has been one of the great success stories of the decade. Growth in Macau has been particularly remarkable, with incomes, opportunities and quality of life transformed.
Macau’s tremendous economic success has been built on welcoming investment, business, but most of all tourists. Thanks to the government’s role in providing infrastructure and a clear and simple regulatory climate, Macau’s economy has grown by, on average, nineteen per cent a year for the last decade.
In 2014 Macau expects to receive over 30 million tourists. Every month, the region beats its own record for tourist numbers. Most visitors come for the casinos but Macau is expanding its offerings, increasingly becoming a destination for families.
Macau’s record strikes a chord in Kazakhstan. While Kazakhstan is among the top 50 global economies, we are, of course, further behind on our economic journey. We have just begun the process of rebalancing our economy away from our natural resource wealth, and the growth of tourism will play a key part.
While tourism in Macau is well developed, we in Kazakhstan are just starting to consider how we might take better advantage of our stunning landscapes, including vast mountain ranges, deserts and lakes to attract visitors.
This is why I attended the Global Tourism Economy Forum that was held in Macau this week. We greatly enjoyed learning from Macau’s experience and discussing how innovation in the East can combine with Western expertise to develop a booming tourism economy.
After all, Asia’s growing middle class is changing the dynamics of the travel industry. We believe that both Macau and Kazakhstan, which present very different offerings, can both take advantage of this development.
In Kazakhstan, we are trialing the simplification of our visa system so that citizens of ten nations including Korea, Japan and Malaysia, can stay up to fifteen days visa-free.
Kazakhstan is investing in its infrastructure to make the most of our vast country and all it has to offer. Kazakhstan is home to a number of national parks, which contain stunning and varied landscapes as well as rare wildlife such as the snow leopard and the saiga. The capital city Astana has attracted some of the world’s leading architects to create a remarkable cityscape, while Almaty, the country’s second city has a well-established arts and culture scene. Just 25 km from Almaty, which has been shortlisted to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Shymbulak ski resort is also a major tourist draw.
We also have big ambitions for Expo-2017, which is being held in Astana and is focused on the future of energy. We already have indications that more than 100 countries will participate as well as a number of international organizations. The number of visitors to Astana during the Expo is expected to be over 2 million. It will be the first time many of these visitors will have been to the country and we hope to present the best that Kazakhstan has to offer.
We hope that Macau can provide a lesson in how best to grow tourism in our country, and hope to welcome many Chinese at Expo-2017.
* Mr Zhoshibayev is the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan and the EXPO-2017 Commissioner. He was in Macau last week to take part in the Global Tourism Economy Forum.