Don’t confuse Central Asia with ‘Asia’

Over the past few years, the Eastern European and Central European destinations became popular as they offered locals and expats living in the GCC easier options to visit and explore their destinations. Marsel Arystanbekov, Kyrgyzstan’s Country Manager for metasearch platform Aviasales shares his views with TravTalk over the new outbound markets.

When our industry speaks about the importance of Asian travellers returning to international and long-haul travel, inevitably that means two Asian source markets only: Japan and China. Of course their significance is major in terms of both pax and spend. But what about Central Asia?

Whilst China outbound tourism is barred and Japan only just opened its borders fully a few weeks ago, travel from Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan was never as strict as China or other countries. So, as tourism in Europe and the Middle Eastern has opened up over the last year, so too have the numbers gone up for people from Central Asian countries travelling internationally. In fact, according to our research, this summer demand for visiting GCC countries has grown by 75 per cent among Central Asian countries compared to the same period last year.

So, when visiting the GCC where do they go? The most popular countries to visit in this region are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, with Dubai the most popular city. Interestingly, 38 per cent of travelers take their children with them on vacation. And which specific Central Asian countries travel most to the GCC? The biggest share by PAX is from Kazakhstan (80 per cent), followed by Uzbekistan (17 per cent), Kyrgyzstan (less than 3 per cent), and Tajikistan (less than 1 per cent). It’s not just search demand or even flight bookings that have recovered in the Central Asian states, spending has too. Just a few weeks ago we published a study revealing a significant increase in travel spends among travellers from Central Asian republics. Central Asians like visiting

Europe too, of course. In fact, Europe is the number one dream destination for 40 per cent of them. This is really quite interesting. Basically it’s just airBaltic, Lufthansa, LOT and Wizz Air flying to Kazakhstan.

Is there a good time to market to the region you might ask? Probably the most extended holiday period for many would be during ‘Nauryz’, a kind of spring festival in March time that sees several days of national holiday in several countries across the region. In our experience demand for international travel is very high during those dates. Next time someone speaks to you about the Asian outbound market ask them to clarify which markets they mean by that and remind them that Central Asia is still Asia, and more importantly, much more closely located to Europe and the Middle East, thus making it a valuable market to not be overlooked.

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