Uzbekistan’s Schizophrenic Relationship with Tourism
Tashkent is set to host an international tourism expo on April 17 and 18. But the timing isn’t very auspicious, coming only a few days after state television warned viewers that inviting unknown foreigners to Uzbekistan is “like playing with fire.” Uzbekistan TV reported this month that an Uzbek citizen had set up "fake" tourist outfits to unlawfully provide visa support to 300 Pakistani and Chinese nationals since February 2013. Another Uzbek woman "illegally" helped 42 foreigners enter Uzbekistan in 2013 alone, the program said. The broadcast criticized such people "for bringing so many people from abroad and not doing any business with them.”Tourism might count as doing business with visitors, though the tone of the program echoed other state media campaigns warning Uzbeks to shun anything alien. The authorities regularly use state media to warn about the “harmful” effects of foreign toys, video games, and anything else that might undermine Uzbeks’ “moral heritage and mentality.” “What if the visiting foreign entrepreneurs have totally different intentions? Our point is reinforced by the fact that some of the people are complete strangers to business," Uzbekistan TV said on April 3, in remarks carried by BBC Monitoring. The report did not specify what kind of intentions the unwanted visitors may have had, but warned, “Every one of us should be vigilant and watchful.”Wine tastings at a bucolic vineyard sound like a distinctly foreign idea. At the very least, for $50 to $75 per person, they’re more likely to attract foreigners. The tastings, organized by the Tashkent-based Yasmina Tour travel agency and the nearby Khamkor vineyard, are just one idea to be unveiled at the tourism exhibition next week—the World of Holiday 2014 International Uzbek Travel Fair, which will be hosted by the state-run Uzbektourism company. The five-hour tasting excursions will be the first of their kind in Central Asia, the Podrobno.uz website reported on April 9. A sampling of 12 different varieties of Uzbek wine "will introduce tourists to the incredible world of grape growing and winemaking in Uzbekistan," the website said. Or, if state TV gets its way, maybe not.
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