Alay region ranked second in the world ranking of sustainable destinations

In voting for the prestigious international People’s Choice Award of the Green Destinations global platform, Alay district took second place out of a hundred nominees from around the world. The award ceremony took place during the International Tourism Exhibition ITB - 2023 in Berlin at the beginning of March this year. It should be noted that the difference between Alay district and the city of Sagay (Philippines), which ranked first was only 211 votes.

“We would like to thank everyone who voted for us, our partners and, of course, all the residents of the Alay region. We are very proud of this achievement and will do our best to further develop sustainable tourism in our region and in the country as a whole,” said Kanybek Apbasov, akim of the Alay region.

Earlier, in September 2022, with the support of the GreenTour project, funded by the European Union, and the Swiss Bai Alai programme, the Alay region became the first tourist destination from Central Asia and the CIS countries to be included in the global Green Destinations 2022 TOP-100 best sustainable tourism practices in recognition of the region’s efforts in developing responsible.

“The story of Alay submitted for the competition is dedicated to the preservation of national culture through the popularization of crafts. This includes reducing poverty among rural women by identifying and supporting women artisans, training villagers to work with tourists to increase their income,” said Samat Shatmanov, Director of the Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policy of the Kyrgyz Republic.

In 2017, CBT Alay developed a tourism development strategy for 10 years and, as one of its development goals, chose the support of local women artisans to revive the handicraft traditions of the region, and then popularize them among tourists. In the same year, the Public Association "Business Women of Alay" (hereinafter referred to as BWA), founded in 2014, chose crafts as a key area for business development.

In just 7 years, the number of women participating in the association and benefiting from its support and assistance has increased from 10 to 324 people. BWA members’ sales have increased from literally zero to 317,000 som ($4,000) in 2021. Artisans began to export their products to Europe, USA, Japan, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The example of Business Women of Alay has been replicated in the neighboring Chon-Alay Region where the branch of BWA was opened recently. As a result of these empowering initiatives, the poverty rate has been declining through engagement of women and providing them with income-generating opportunities in the handicrafts and tourism sectors.

“We are very much proud of the success of the Alai’s and Chon Alai’s destinations. They became the second worldwide people’s choice for green destinations this year. We are happy that Switzerland contributed to this success with its Bai Alai project. This will result in increased number of tourists who value green and sustainable tourism destinations around the Globe”, said Ambassador of Switzerland to the Kyrgyz Republic Olivier Bangerter.

The award will help the Alay region in attracting new international tourists, which in turn will significantly affect the region's economy, help create new jobs, and help promote sustainable tourism in Kyrgyzstan and the tourism industry in general.

“Alay region received such an important recognition as a worldwide tourism destination and it shows that Kyrgyzstan is as a green destination,” said the Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union to the Kyrgyz Republic Marilyn Josefson. “This symbolic achievement showcases the impact of the EU in promoting cultural heritage, local traditions and natural attractions. It is a win-win solution for developing the local communities and supporting their economy. The European Union is committed to promote sustainable tourism and will continue working within the framework of its cooperation activities in Kyrgyzstan,” noted Ms. Josefson.