Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country by area and the largest landlocked country. Today, tourism is not a major component of the economy. As of 2014, tourism has accounted for 0.3% of Kazakhstan’s GDP, but the government has plans to increase it to 3% by 2020. According to the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017, travel and tourism industry GDP in Kazakhstan is $3.08 billion or 1.6 percent of total GDP. The WEF ranks Kazakhstan 80th in its 2019 report. Kazakhstan received 6.5 million tourists in 2016.
In 2017, Kazakhstan ranked 43rd in the world in terms of number of tourist arrivals. In 2000 total 1.47 million international tourists visited Kazakhstan, which was increased to 4.81 million in 2012. The Guardian describes tourism in Kazakhstan as, “hugely underdeveloped”, despite the attractions of the country’s dramatic mountain, lake and desert landscapes. Factors hampering an increase in tourist visits are said to include high prices, “shabby infrastructure”, “poor service” and the logistical difficulties of travel in a geographically enormous, underdeveloped country. Even for locals, going for holiday abroad may cost only half the price of taking a holiday in Kazakhstan.
The Kazakh Government, long characterised as authoritarian with a history of human rights abuses and suppression of political opposition, has started an initiative named the “Tourism Industry Development Plan 2020”. This initiative aims to establish five tourism clusters in Kazakhstan: Nur-Sultan city, Almaty city, East Kazakhstan, South Kazakhstan, and West Kazakhstan Oblasts. It also seeks investment of $4 billion and the creation of 300,000 new jobs in the tourism industry by 2020.
Kazakhstan offers a permanent visa-free regime for up to 90 days to citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia and Ukraine and for up to 30 days to citizens of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Serbia, South Korea, Tajikistan, Turkey, UAE and Uzbekistan.
Kazakhstan established a visa-free regime for citizens of 54 countries, including European Union and OECD member states, the US, Japan, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.