As the world’s ninth largest country it is no surprise that Kazakhstan has a real diversity of cultures, climate and infrastructure. But a renewed focus on its aviation sector and investment in tourism means the country will soon be appearing on more airline network maps WORDS: RICHARD MASLEN


he world’s largest landlocked country, Kazakhstan, has historically been a key trading

point between Europe and Asia along the famous Silk Road. Home to more than 131 different ethnicities and the size of Western Europe, Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world. It generates more than 60% of Central Asia’s GDP, primarily through its oil/gas industry, which helped it establish itself on the global stage following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The country’s increasing wealth is driven

largely by its vast mineral resources, while the discovery of the Kashagan oilfield in the northern Caspian Sea has positioned the country as an increasingly important player in the global energy market. Supported by rising oil output and

prices, Kazakhstan’s economy grew at an average of 8% per year until 2013, before suffering a slowdown in 2014 and 2015 sparked by falling oil prices and the effects of the Ukrainian crisis on trade and visitors. This resulted in the country devaluing its currency, the tenge, by 19% in February 2014 and by a further 22% in August 2015. However, Kazakhstan remains the leader among the Commonwealth of Independent States in terms of Foreign Direct Investment attracted per capita, with more than $190 billion in gross foreign investments since its independence in 1991. Elsewhere, visitor numbers are on the rise as the Kazakhstan government actively


looks to diversify its economy and grow tourism investment. According to Travel and Tourism

Intelligence Center data from consumer insight firm Canadean, domestic tourist volumes in Kazakhstan increased from 3.9 million trips in 2010 to 6.1 million trips in 2014, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.1%. Looking ahead it is forecasted that domestic tourist volumes will increase at a CAGR of 5.1% to reach 7.8 million trips in 2019. International departures from Kazakhstan grew at a rate of 15.6% to reach 10.5 million in 2014, while inbound tourism to Kazakhstan recorded a CAGR of 11.9% between 2009 and 2014. Kyrgyzstan remains the dominant

market for international arrivals, growing close to the two million annual visitor figure by 2019, but growth is also predicted to return to the Russian market from this year with rises in visitors from Tajikistan and China. There is also expected to be growth in inbound tourism from Europe, supported by the enhanced air connectivity offered directly by Air Astana and via other intermediate points with foreign air carriers. Germany is currently the largest source market in Europe with around 115,000 annual arrivals in 2014, a number that is set to grow to almost 195,000 by the end of the decade. For many years after its independence

Kazakhstan was blighted by a story of failed carriers, poor safety records

The capital Astana will host Expo 2017

Air Astana offers direct connections to Europe

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