The pace of development of the tourism industry in Central Asia is impressive, and the international community is supporting these processes, sharing professional experience, discussing challenges and rediscovering the treasures of the Great Silk Road. Uzbekistan is increasingly hosting international events dedicated to the development of the hospitality industry.

For example, the 25th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) was held in Samarkand from 16 to 20 October. For the first time in history, Uzbekistan hosted this important biennial gathering of UNWTO Member States and Associate Members from some 159 countries. Travel agency heads from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Haiti, Indonesia, Monaco, Niger, Panama, Portugal, Sierra Leone, Ukraine, Uruguay and Yemen visited the ancient city of Samarkand.

The new year 2024 began with the third independent Samarkand Tourism Forum on 9-10 February. It is a private initiative created by travel industry enthusiasts: event and MICE practitioner Sergey Makarov (Bishkek), travel entrepreneur Ravshan Turakulov (Samarkand) and tourism development expert Mikhail Shamshidov (Tashkent). In 2024, STF supported and co-organised the USAID Entrepreneurship and Business Environment Development Project, and for the second time, the Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages was the official partner, hosting most of the Forum’s business events. STF 2024 was dedicated to sustainability practices in tourism. The programme opened with a panel discussion with business and public sector representatives on “How to Make Public-Private Partnership in Tourism in Central Asia” and continued with round tables and discussions on “How to Become an Agritourism Destination”, “Tourism Development in Border Regions” and “Women’s Entrepreneurship as a Sustainable Practice”. The STF also initiated a “Negotiation Table” for Central Asian tourism associations on “Harmonization of Goals of Central Asian and Silk Road Tourism Associations”, which was attended by the Hospitality Association of Uzbekistan, Zarafshan Tourism Development Association, Sustainable Tourism Association of Uzbekistan, KATO and TACBT. The Forum gathered more than 200 participants and 60 speakers from 17 countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, Germany, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Pakistan, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, United Kingdom and United States.

From 29 February to 1 March, the Hotel Business Forum was held in Tashkent with the international participation of representatives of the Swiss and German embassies, international and regional public and private organizations and companies involved in the hospitality sector. The event was organized by the Association of Hoteliers of Uzbekistan with the official support of the Committee on Tourism of the Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The Forum discussed a number of applied issues of development of hotels as business entities in Uzbekistan, measures of state support for investment projects, statistical data of research in this field. Special attention was paid to the topic “Green economy in the development of the hotel sector: global experience”, where international experts presented the best practices and cases in the field of environmentally sustainable development of the hotel business. The forum brought together leading experts in hospitality, tourism and related industries from Switzerland, Germany, Azerbaijan, Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and other countries. Regional representatives of international brands such as Hyatt International (Europe Africa East) LLC, Hilton Worldwide, International Hotels Group, Radisson Hotel Group, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Dedeman Hotels & Resorts, Accor Hotel Group also acted as speakers. In total, more than 1,300 investors and market participants attended the event, which once again underlined the importance of the topic for the region and Uzbekistan’s readiness to increase the investment attractiveness of the tourism sector.
Another highlight was the first Central Asian women’s forum “Be woman”, also held in Tashkent on 5 March. And although the forum was not directly dedicated to tourism issues, but to women’s leadership, the integration of creative industries and tourism (especially the MICE sector) was clearly visible in the speakers’ reports. For example, a panel discussion entitled “Culture and Creativity: Uniting Central Asia’ was held as part of the forum.

In addition to major events, Uzbekistan regularly hosts exhibitions, meetings and other events dedicated to the development of tourism and the creative economy. The Editorial board of OCA Magazine notes that the growth in the quantity and quality of such events has increased several times compared to the period up to 2019, despite the pandemic and, in a way, thanks to it. Today, the tourism industry is one of the most attractive sectors of the country’s economy in terms of the investment climate.