Tourism in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country by area and the largest landlocked country. As of 2014, tourism has accounted for 0.3% of Kazakhstan's GDP, but the government has plans to increase it to 3% by 2020.
In 2012, Kazakhstan ranked 51st in the world in terms of number of tourist arrivals. In 2000 total 1.47 million international tourists visited Kazakhstan, which was increased to 4.81 million in 2012. The Guardian describes tourism in Kazakhstan as, "hugely underdeveloped," despite the attractions of the country's dramatic mountain, lake and desert landscapes, and the opportunity to visit a Soviet-era Gulag labor camp. Factors hampering an increase in tourist visits are said to include high prices, "shabby infrastructure," "poor service" and the logistical difficulties of travel in a geographically enormous, underdeveloped country. Even for locals, going for holiday abroad may cost only half the price of taking a holiday in Kazakhstan. High-end tourists like Britain's Prince Harry have visited for the skiing.
The Kazakh Government, long characterized as authoritarian with a history of human rights abuses and suppression of political opposition, has started an initiative named the "Tourism Industry Development Plan 2020". This initiative aims to establish five tourism clusters in Kazakhstan: Astana city, Almaty city, East Kazakhstan, South Kazakhstan, and West Kazakhstan Oblasts. It also seeks investment of $4 billion and the creation of 300,000 new jobs in the tourism industry by 2020.
Kazakhstan offers a permanent visa-free regime for up to 90 days to citizens of Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia and Ukraine and for up to 30 days to citizens of Argentina, Azerbaijan, Serbia, South Korea, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
In 2014 Kazakhstan adopted a no-visa pilot program for 10 developed nations with the highest investment in Kazakhstan economy in order to attract tourists and investors. According to this policy, visitors from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malaysia and the Netherlands can stay in Kazakhstan without any visa for a period of up to 15 days. In 2015, Kazakhstan further expanded this program to 19 countries by including Australia, Finland, Hungary, Monaco, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
There are four World Heritage Sites in Kazakhstan recognized by the UNESCO. Three of them are cultural while one is natural. Additionally there are 13 more sites on UNESCO's tentative list. The four World Heritage Sites are the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, Petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly, Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor, and Saryarka – Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan.
The thirteen sites that are on the tentative list of UNESCO are as follows: the Turkic sanctuary of Merke, the Megalithic mausolea of the Begazy-Dandybai culture, the Barrows with stone ranges of the Tasmola culture, the Petroglyphs of Eshkiolmes, the Petroglyphs of Arpa-Uzen, Paleolithic sites and geomorphology of Karatau mountain range, Archaeological sites of Otrar oasis, the Cultural landscape of Ulytau, Northern Tyan-Shan (Ile-Alatau State National Park), State National Natural Park "Altyn-Emel", the Aksu-Zhabagly state natural reserve, Western Tien-Shan, and the Silk Road.
Additionally, the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. This is located in the town of Baikonur, Kazakhstan, a part of the Soviet Union at the time of the launch.
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