Uzbekistan tempts tourists with bars of gold
Under new legislation, gold can be sold in individuals ingots.
Gold: Uzbekistan’s latest wheeze for drawing foreign visitors.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev last week approved legislation allowing retailers to sell gold bars in weights from five grams to one kilogram. That marks a change from before, when the metal was traded only on industrial scale or available in the form of jewelry.
The bars will be produced at a gold-refining plant in the city of Navoi, some 700 kilometers from Tashkent.
The government also plans to streamline the process of taking gold out of the country for short-term visitors. At the moment, foreign nationals can only take gold or other precious metals out of the country in limited amounts and for personal use.
Uzbekistan has no shortage of the stuff – its gold reserves are ranked fourth in the world by volume, although the country is only ninth in the world in terms of volumes mined.
Officials are seeking to put on the agenda the idea of making Uzbekistan a destination for shoppers. In an interview in May, then-head of the tourism committee, Aziz Abdukhakimov, who has since been appointed deputy prime minister, said that it was important to develop what he termed “shopping tourism.” He was talking primarily about high-quality accessories.
“We are not just talking about selling souvenirs, but also modern wares. We need to create new brands. We can offer fine jewelry and we also have huge potential to create and promote modern clothes and accessories,” he said.
But easily acquirable gold bars are as compelling a product as anything else Abdukhakimov mentioned, particularly as small amounts of the metal would sell at larger relative prices than industrial exports currently draw.
At the end of 2016, Mirziyoyev declared tourism a strategic sector of the Uzbek economy. In the most notable concessions to date, seven countries – Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and Japan – have been granted visa-free travel to Uzbekistan for stays of up to 30 days. Citizens of another 39 countries can receive tourist visas under a simplified system.