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Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Transport services in Uzbekistan


Fri 05 May 2023 | 01:47 PM
Afzal Artikov, Asror Nigmanov, Center for Economic Research and Reforms under the Administration of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Afzal Artikov, Asror Nigmanov, Center for Economic Research and Reforms under the Administration of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan

The efficient operation o f the transport sector is very important for the stability of economic development, the welfare o f the population, and ensuring the national security of any country. This industry is a complex economic system that covers all passengers on air, land, water transport, as well as cargo transportation. About what was done last year in this area and what is planned this year. 

Results of 2022

In 2022, the volume of services rendered in the transport sector increased by 12.4%, motor transport services — by 6.5%, passenger turnover — by 5.6%. Meanwhile, the growth rate in terms of cargo turnover has slowed down from 11.8% in 2021 to 0.5% in 2022.

Resumption of international bus service. Since April 12 last year, regular international bus routes between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have been restored. Since April 15, 2022, the Tashkent—Bishkek international bus route to the Kyrgyz Republic has been resumed, 2 flights are made every day. The Tashkent—Khojand international bus route in Tajikistan has been resumed. On February 20, the regular international route Kokand—Khojand was opened, and on June 3, Yangiyer—Istaravshan and Tashkent—Istaravshan. Bus service to Russia has been restored. In particular, since July 18, 2022, regular international bus routes Tashkent—Moscow, Tashkent—Kazan, Tashkent—St. Petersburg, Tashkent—Novosibirsk, Tashkent—Nizhny Novgorod, Tashkent—Omsk and Tashkent—Perm have been resumed.

In addition, on September 8, 2022, for the first time through an electronic information system e-tender.uztrans.uz an open tender was held for regular international bus routes (9 lots), as a result of which the winners were determined and contracts were signed.

In the field of public transport, 85 medium-sized SAZ LE-60 buses and 190 large-capacity MAN buses were also purchased, 17 new ground public transport routes were introduced and the capacity at 50 busy intersections was increased.

In the field of air transport in January-November 2022, Uzbekistan established new flights with countries such as the USA, Great Britain, Germany, Egypt, India, Georgia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Latvia, Azerbaijan, South Korea, Russia, Turkey, UAE, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus. Accordingly, the number of foreign airlines operating regular flights to Uzbekistan has been increased to 31, and the number of routes has been increased to 59.

In April, on the eve of the visit of the President of Turkey to Uzbekistan, the aviation authorities of the two countries reached an agreement on the implementation of additional flights on the currently operating routes (Tashkent—Istanbul 14+3, Samarkand—Istanbul 3+1, Fergana—Istanbul 2+1, Urgench—Istanbul 1+1).

As part of the implementation of the Eastern Hub program, in order to create favorable conditions for residents of the Fergana Valley who frequently fly from the airport of the neighboring city of Osh, regular flights from Namangan and Fergana to a number of cities of the Russian Federation have been established since February 2022.

Since January 2022, after a long break in the pilgrimage tourism program due to the pandemic, Uzbekistan Airways JSC, together with the Muslim Board, has resumed daily flights for Uzbek pilgrims to the cities of Jeddah and Medina within the framework of the Umrah-2022 program.

As another significant event in the field of air transport, the opening of the new airfield complex of the Samarkand International Airport on March 18 should be highlighted, and since October 1 of this year, the "Ochik Osmon" ("Open Sky") regime has been introduced at the Samarkand International Airport. 

Along with the above-mentioned events, a new business model of Uzbekistan Airways was developed jointly with experts of the World Bank. The airline switched to a hybrid business model and launched new low-budget transportation services Uzbekistan Express, as a result of which fares, compared to other routes, were reduced by an average of 20%. 

Within the framework of the current Pilgrimage Tourism program, discounts of up to 50% have been introduced to the announced tariffs for the main types of ground services provided to aircraft of foreign airlines for passenger transportation. Currently, Uzbekistan Airways, Qanot Sharq and Humo Air operate regular flights on domestic lines of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

In the field of development of international transport corridors, logistics and transit, in January 2022, within the framework of the visit of the Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Tajikistan, an Uzbek-Tajik joint Commission was established to discuss and develop cooperation between the parties in the field of international road transport. In January, a draft memorandum on the creation of an international transport and transit corridor using the Chabahar port was also developed and sent to the Iranian side. In addition, an agreement on international road transport has been signed between the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

For 9 months of last year, the share of the volume of goods transported along the main transport corridors of our country is as follows:

Uzbekistan—Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan—China — 41.3% (13.5 million tons) 

Uzbekistan—Kazakhstan—Russia—European countries — 23% (7.5 million tons)

Uzbekistan—Kazakhstan—Russia— 19% (5.9 million tons)

Uzbekistan—Turkmenistan/Kazakhstan—Azerbaijan—Georgia—Turkey — 8% (2.6 million tons)

Uzbekistan—Turkmenistan—Iran — 7.7% (2.5 million tons)

Uzbekistan—Afghanistan—Pakistan—India — 2% (0.6 million tons)

Last year, a number of works were carried out in the field of further development of international railway corridors.

To develop a feasibility study of the project for the construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif—Kabul—Peshawar railway, an orthophotoplan (initial photographic site plan) was drawn up along the route and a field expedition was conducted in the third quarter of 2022.

On September 14, a trilateral agreement on cooperation on the China—Kyrgyzstan—Uzbekistan railway construction project was signed within the framework of the SCO Samarkand Summit. A feasibility study of this project was also developed by the First Design and Research Institute of the China Railway Construction Corporation.

The Turkish side has joined the signed 5-party Protocol on the development of the multimodal route China—Kyrgyzstan—Uzbekistan—Turkmenistan—Azerbaijan—Georgi a, which provides for the application of up to 70% discounts on rail fares between the countries.

On October 28, 2022, during the 6th meeting of the Ministers of Transport of the Organization of Turkic States, the project of the electronic exchange of permit forms (E-permit) between the Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure of Turkey was launched.

Plans for 2023

In order to continue the reforms in the transport sector in the coming year, it is planned to implement the following measures.

In the field of railway transport, in order to create convenience for national exporters when transporting goods by rail, it is planned to maintain discounts on rail fares on major international routes, increase the efficiency of Uzbekistan Temir Yullari JSC and reduce customer service time by at least 30% due to digitalization, create an online information system for monitoring passenger train movements and introduce "passenger loyalty program" electronic ticket sales systems.

In order to widely involve the private sector in the railway industry, it is also planned to separate the natural monopoly and competitive segments of this sphere from each other and develop separately the monopoly part and competitive areas that can attract private sector investment.

In the field of air transport, new flights from Tashkent to China and the Czech Republic will be opened, and the number of flights to New York, Delhi, London, Frankfurt, Paris and Milan will be increased from 17 to 23 per week. It is planned to establish more than 30 weekly flights from Samarkand to countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, India, China, Israel and Turkey.

The number of resident airlines operating in our republic will be increased to 5 (4 of them with a share o f the private sector). As a result, resident airlines will operate regular flights to 45 domestic and 120 international destinations. To meet the demand for domestic and international flights, 5 resident airlines of Uzbekistan are planning to import 20 aircraft.

Humo Air will operate 32 regular weekly flights from Tashkent to Bukhara, Urgench, Fergana, Qarshi, Nukus, Namangan, Samarkand and Termez. In addition, measures will be taken to modernize the international airports "Bukhara" and "Urgench" on the basis of public-private partnership.

Currently, for the development of domestic and inbound tourism, Uzbekistan Airports JSC is working on the creation of a new subsidiary of Silk Avia (a low-cost airline). It is planned to operate flights on ATR72-600 aircraft (a turboprop aircraft designed for transportation up to 1300 km), which can carry 70-78 passengers, and thanks to the launch of a new airline, connect all major cities of our republic with connecting flights on domestic routes.

In the direction of transport corridors, negotiations will be held between the transport departments of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan to reduce fees, ensure security, maintain the infrastructure of the Salang pass in proper condition and an agreement on the development of the Uzbekistan—Afghanistan—Pakistan transit corridor will be developed. For the construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif—Kabul—Peshawar railway, negotiations will be held with international financial organizations to determine the sources of financing for the development of a feasibility study.

Within the framework of the China—Kyrgyzstan—Uzbekistan railway construction project, it is planned to reach an agreement with the parties to determine the sources of financing and complete the development of a feasibility study of the project in the first half of 2023. Negotiations will also be held with EU countries (Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, etc.) to obtain additional permits for international road transport and increase quotas set for 2023.

Public transport. In order to increase the coverage of the population by public transport, the scheme of existing 4,945 routes in the regions will be revised, taking into account the demand of the population, and 48 new passenger transport routes will be opened. Also, in order to develop public transport infrastructure, it is planned to build and reconstruct 25 bus stations and bus stations in the regions.

To update the structure of public transport, carriers will purchase 1,120 buses and 580 minibuses. The import of new buses and minibuses will be subject to an interest-free installment of value added tax for two years.

Gradually, environmentally friendly electric buses will be used on urban passenger transportation routes. Preferential long-term loans from foreign financial institutions under a state guarantee will be attracted for the purchase of 453 modern electric buses and chargers. In order to support the purchase of electric buses by business entities, a system will be introduced to cover part of their cost from the state budget.

In order to further develop the public transport system in Tashkent, it is planned to complete the II stage of construction work and put into operation the Qoyliq—Kuruvchilar section, consisting of 7 stations of the 12.3 km-long elevated ring metro line. As a result, the metro network will cover 82 thousand residents in 21 mahallas and 9 large objects (Tashkent INDEX shopping complex, Tashkent Metallurgical Plant, Tashkent Examination Center, IMZO plant, Infectious Diseases Hospital, etc.). In addition, 52 new ground public transport routes will be created (4 trunk, 5 ring, 30 connecting and 13 delivery routes). Also in 2023, it is planned to replenish the Tashkent public transport fleet with 1,000 new buses.

In order to increase the efficiency of financial and economic activities of public transport enterprises and improve the quality of transport services provided, a new system of financing carriers will be developed based on the volume of work 

In Uzbekistan, as a result of the measures taken to stabilize the industry and further develop tourism, this sphere was able to quickly restore its previous level. If in 2021 the number of local tourists amounted to 4.6 million people, then as of 2022, 11.4 million local residents have already traveled around the country.

In 2022, more than 5.2 million foreign tourists visited Uzbekistan (in 2017- 2.69 million). This is 2.9 times more than in 2021 (1.8 million) and 2.5 million more than the planned (2.7 million) for 2022. In 2022, the volume of exports of tourist services exceeded $1.61 billion. This figure in 2021 was equal to $296.4 million, and in 2019 — $951 million, in 2017 — $1.55 billion.

The stay of the guests who came to our country increased on average to 4-5 days, and their expenses up to $305. And in 2019, this figure averaged 3 days and $195, respectively. Over the past 3 years, the number of hotel beds has increased 3 times and reached almost 125 thousand. In 2017, this figure was 37 thousand.

Measures taken

These figures are the result of a lot of attention paid to the development of tourism in Uzbekistan. In particular, measures were taken to widely introduce the infrastructure of "barrier-free tourism" in the main tourist cities of the republic, our country was completely open to foreign travel, all travel restrictions were lifted.

In particular, the issuance of visas to tourists has been radically liberalized, queues and unnecessary checks at airports have been eliminated, "green corridors" and favorable conditions at train stations have been created, a system of electronic registration of guests has been established, all conditions for their free movement have been created. Restrictions on currency exchange have been lifted.

In the development of domestic tourism, special attention is paid to the organization of systematic trips of the population. The rates of social tax and turnover tax for tourism enterprises are set at 1%, the rates of land tax and property tax are reduced by 90%.

Within the framework of Uzbekistan's chairmanship in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, large-scale work related to the tourism sector was carried out in preparation for the Samarkand SCO summit. The city of Samarkand is becoming a world-famous metropolis, an international center of tourism and business. A new Tourist Center and Samarkand Airport were launched in this city, as well as 8 hotels, a congress hall, a park and other recreation and entertainment complexes were established. All restrictions on flights and routes of foreign airlines have been lifted at the Samarkand airport. This has increased the importance of Samarkand as the "New Gateway of Tourism", the "Business Card" of the New Uzbekistan.

Tourist infrastructure in development

There was a positive result in the organization of tourist services in 135 makhallas on the territory of 28 districts (cities) of the republic. In particular, 1,841 tourist facilities have been established, including 36 hotels, 60 hostels, 512 guest houses, 174 yurts, 190 handicraft centers, 37 zones of mountain tourism and 37 beach tourism, 5 points of desert tourism, 376 restaurants and cafes, 164 transport service enterprises, 14 hunting tourism facilities and 95 pilgrimage tourism, provision of 141 tourism-related services.

In the republic, 884 sanitary and hygienic points have been built and repaired at tourist sites, gas stations for all types of cars, roadsides and in densely populated places. The level of provision of sanitary and hygienic points of 4,009 gas stations in the country has reached 96.9% (3,885 gas stations are provided with sanitary and hygienic points).

Based on the analysis of the dynamics of the flow of tourists in the context of foreign countries, new tourist routes were developed for tourists from more than 40 countries with a high potential for outbound tourism. As part of the "Travel to Uzbekistan!" program, a special Cashback system has been launched since September 2022 to reimburse part of the costs of domestic travel. The possibility of obtaining a license for tourism activities and qualification certificates for master restorers through electronic public services has been created.

Special attention is paid to pilgrimage tourism

Standards of requirements for tourist services for pilgrimage tourism have been developed. Prayer rooms and ablution rooms were organized at international airports, railway stations and hotels. Halal, Kosher and Vegan standards are being introduced in catering establishments, restaurants and tourist accommodation facilities for pilgrimage tourism.

In accordance with the state program "Year of Ensuring Human Interests and Development of the Makhalla" in November last year in our country (in the cities  f Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and Tashkent), the "International Week of Pilgrimage Tourism" was held. The opening ceremony in Samarkand was attended by a number of international organizations, influential figures of the Islamic world, representatives of pilgrimage tourism of foreign countries. As a result of the implemented measures, Uzbekistan rose from 32nd place in 2017 to 9th place in 2022 in the Global Muslim Tourism Index (GMTI) report.

At the Global Halal in Travel Awards Summit held in Singapore on the revival and development of the tourist market of the Muslim world, the city of Samarkand was recognized as the winner in the nominations "The Best Place of the Year of Islamic Heritage" and "The Best Developing Muslim City in the World". The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has declared the city of Khiva the tourist capital of the Islamic world in 2024. Also, within the framework of the SCO Samarkand Summit, 2023 was declared the Year of Tourism Development in the SCO space. The city of Shakhrisabz will become the tourist capital of the Economic Cooperation Organization in 2024.

Prospects of tourism development

It is already becoming generally recognized that the potential of Uzbekistan in the field of tourism is huge and the necessary conditions for its implementation have already been created. Promising measures have also been identified for the further development of this industry, which plays an important role in the country's economy.

According to plans, 7 million foreign tourists will arrive in the country in 2023 and 12 million domestic tourists will be attracted, the export of tourist services will amount to $2 billion. At the same time, 170 hotels, 58 hostels, 273 accommodation facilities will be created, and their total number will be 1944. Four hundred ten new family guest houses will be created in remote areas of our republic. Thanks to this, residents of remote mountainous and foothill areas will have the opportunity to organize self-employment and have a permanent source of income. It is also planned to establish the activities of 80 tourism enterprises, create a total of 200 thousand jobs in the field of tourism and related industries.

It is also planned to reach an agreement with foreign airlines and launch at least 10 international flights per day to Samarkand and at least 1 flight per day to the Fergana Valley, Nukus, Urgench and Termez from Europe, Asia, America, Arab States and neighboring states. In order to attract foreign airlines to carry out regular flights, the II International Uzbekistan Airports, Aviation & Logistics Forum will be organized in Samarkand.

As a result of the purchase by Uzbekistan Airways of 12 Airbus A 320aircraft and Airbus H 145 helicopters, the number of flights to Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Arab countries, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and neighboring republics with a high potential for pilgrimage tourism will be increased. The number of flights of the Hungarian airline Wizz Air, which started flights to Samarkand from Abu Dhabi, will be increased from 2023 to at least 4 times a week, and measures will also be taken to launch flights to European countries such as Hungary, Romania, Italy and Cyprus.

Each region is developing a project to organize its own "tourist ring" to attract domestic and foreign tourists. At the same time, up to $20 million will be allocated to the best projects on a competitive basis. It is also planned to open a credit line for the development of tourist services in the amount of $100 million and attract another $100 million for lending in 2023 by the end of 2022.

It is planned to build additional tourist zones and recreation areas in Zaamin, Farish, Bakhmal districts and the Aidar-Arnasai lake system, implement projects worth $300 million, create 25 thousand jobs.

In order to develop "safari" tourism in the steppe regions of Karakalpakstan, Bukhara, Kashkadarya, Navoi, Surkhandarya, Ferghana and Khorezm regions, a proposal was put forward to reduce duties on all-terrain vehicles.

Practical work is also underway to develop a separate ecotourism development program in Karakalpakstan and the Aral Sea region. It provides for extensive use of the potential of the new Muynak airport, the creation of road and communal services, communications, infrastructure and additional services for tourists in ecotourism regions, as well as conditions for the organization of tourism facilities and recreation areas on the banks of the Amu Darya, places for cultural recreation of young people in the framework of ecotourism in Takhtakupyr district. 

Detailed planning of beach areas in lakes such as Akchakul, Ashshi, Zikri, Aidarkul, Tuzkon and Tudakul, located on the territory of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, Bukhara, Navoi and Jizzakh regions, as well as the development and implementation of master plan projects for the creation of a museum-monument "Amir Temur Tugilgan Maskan" in the village of Khoja Ilgor in Yakkabag district.

The "Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026" provides for the creation of medical clusters in Namangan, Ferghana, Syrdarya, Kashkadarya, Navoi, Tashkent regions and the city of Tashkent, which in turn will serve the development of medical tourism.

Tourist popularity of Uzbekistan

In 2022, large-scale work was also carried out to popularize the attractiveness of Uzbekistan for tourists. In such authoritative publications as the American Time magazine, the online travel guides Lemming, Forbes Advisor and The New York Times, the famous British magazine British Muslim Magazine, the online editions Independent, Rough Sides, Dorling Kindersley, Times Travel and Lonely Planet, the Russian edition "Kursiv" published and presented to the world community positive articles about the tourism potential and opportunities of Uzbekistan.

Thanks to this, the 25th anniversary session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization will be held in Samarkand. Within the framework of the session, more than 20 events will be organized at the international level and the Silk Road Prize in the field of tourism will be established.

At the same time, the national exhibition, recently held at the famous Louvre Museum in France, shows how much interest abroad is in the unique historical heritage, rich culture and traditions of our people. In 2023, measures will be taken to organize museum fairs and expositions in Europe, Southeast Asia and America, as well as in the Louvre Museum. A separate program will be implemented to further familiarize the youth of the country and foreign tourists with the unique historical and cultural treasures of our land, the development of museums in accordance with modern requirements.

Conclusions and suggestions

In recent years, at the initiative of the President of our country, special attention has been paid to the development of tourism, the necessary measures are being implemented for the effective use of existing opportunities and potential. It is worth noting that thanks to a well-chosen strategy, tourism in Uzbekistan has become one of the "points of growth" of the national economy, since due to the high multiplier effect on related industries it serves to increase the incomes of citizens and is an important factor in creating new jobs. It should be noted that on average 30% of income in the tourism sector goes into the hands of residents in the form of wages. Therefore, it is advisable that the khokims of regions, districts and cities, together with entrepreneurs, increase the number of tourist zones.

The ongoing work on the development of tourism in our country will have a positive impact on the rapid development of the industry in the coming years. Thanks to this, Uzbekistan will become one of the centers of world tourism, and additional opportunities will be created to increase the share of tourism in the gross domestic product and revenues of local budgets, in providing employment, improving the level and quality of life of the population.

Uzbekistan is a country with great potential in the field of tourism. Taking advantage of the unique nature of our country and wonderful places to relax, you can discover new tourist destinations and products. With the active involvement of world brands in this area, special attention can be paid to the development of pilgrimage, health, ecological, educational, ethnographic, gastronomic tourism and other areas of this industry.

The transfer of regular flights of foreign countries from Tashkent to the main tourist cities of our country, in particular to the city of Samarkand, will significantly reduce the time needed to get to tourist attractions. The revision of all restrictions in the field of tourism and the development of appropriate proposals will contribute to the development of "barrier-free tourism".