Kyrgyzstan has been included as part of Switzerland’s Sustainable Winter Tourism Development Project.
The aim of the project is to strengthen and develop further Kyrgyzstan‘s tourism sector by turning the Karakol region into a high quality destination for travellers. It is funded by the Swiss Government and will be implemented by Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation.
Helvetas is an independent Swiss development organisation which has been involved in the support of the development of winter tourism in Kyrgyzstan’s Karakol region since 2019.
Located at the crossroads of Central Asia, the city of Karakol in eastern Kyrgyzstan is a fascinating gateway to the region’s diverse history, cuisine, and nature. The blend of traditions contribute to the town’s culinary history and cultural heritage: Kyrgyz, Tatar, Russian, Dungan, Uighur, Kalmyk, Uzbek, and more. And with both the Tian Shan Mountains and Lake Issyk-Kul nearby, the Karakol region is turning into a favourite hotspot for outdoor adventure and skiing.
The region already offers visitors the ability to practice a range of winter sports such as snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, paragliding. Resorts and adventure companies offer gear rental for any activity offered, as do EcoTrek, Extreme Tour, and a number of other private outfitters in Karakol town.
The main objective of Switzerland’s Sustainable Winter Tourism Development project is to develop a competitive and sustainable Winter Tourism value chain in the Karakol region. This goal shall be achieved by developing necessary skills for service providers and by creating favourable framework conditions to enable access to the Winter Tourism value chain for small scale entrepreneurs and local populations.
The project was launched in 2019 by Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation which had been selected through an open tender for the implementation of the first phase (pilot phase) covering April 2019 – March 2021, continuing into Main Phase from October 2021 – September 2025.
Revival of cross-country skiing and ice-skating
Under the aegis of WTK support for the development of winter tourism in Karakol, cross-country skiing and ice skating have been selected as two focal areas of interest for direct intervention. Both sport activities have a long history within the local community. Cross-country skiing and ice-skating in the Karakol region date back to at least the Soviet period. However cross-country in the last decades has fallen out of daily sports culture due to a lack of accessibility to members of the community.
Intervention in these areas will thereby not only raise the quality and quantity of active leisure options open to tourists visiting the region, but also increase the engagement of the local community in the same.
Crucial to this intervention strategy is procurement of necessary technical equipment in each area, to ensure readiness of existing winter tracks and enable the efficient creation of additional tracks in the first instance, and to standardize the quality of skating rink ice in the second.
The Swiss organisation is also helping the Eastern Kyrgyzstan region to make wider use of digital marketing and social media by looking at creative digital solutions. To ensure a sustainable tourism sector, Helvetas created a roadmap for Karakol turning in the future into a destination certified for taking a holistic, sustainable view on tourism management.
The project is due to last until the end of September 2025 with a consolidation phase that will last until 2029.