A group of officials from Kazakhstan made the pilgrimage to Yellowstone National Park last week to learn more about the tourism industry.
According to the Helena Independent Record, the group (comprising several Kazakhstani state and local officials) visited multiple sites around Montana. Nonprofit WorldMontana, which facilitates the International Visitor Leadership Program with assistance from the U.S. State Department, hosted the delegation. From the Record:
While in Helena they toured the city before visiting Yellowstone National Park and the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. Once back in Helena, the delegation visited Spring Meadow State Park and the Montana Historical Society and met with local elected officials and business leaders.
Midway through its visit the delegation sat down for an interview with the Independent Record, facilitated through an interpreter due to language barriers. The delegation came to learn about parks and recreation in the U.S. with the goal of taking the information home to apply in Kazakhstan’s 12 national parks and 10 nature preserves.
“Both landscapes and all the environmental conditions in Montana and Kazakhstan are very similar. That’s why we can develop practically all the areas of our work using our experience from Montana,” said Zhassulan Sarsebayev, head of the Tourism and External Affairs Department of East-Kazakhstan.
Azamat Akayev, specialist of the Environment and Education and Tourism Department, said his interest centers on financing national parks and educational programs for visitors.
Entrepreneur Aidar Kassenov said he was impressed with the marketing of national parks, and how his experience closely matched his pre-visit research.
Meruyert Duisekenova, head of the Ecological Education and Tourism Department, added her interest in developing infrastructure and developing tourism ecology education.
Tanirbergen Berdongar, public adviser to the minister of investment and development, spoke without the use of the interpreter. He said the trip helped understand the culture in America and the mentality of tourism, national parks and the economics.
“For us if we understand the minds of Americans, we understand how to change (our) political strategy of our tourism,” he said.
“I think to Americans it’s interesting to share the experience because I think it’s in their souls to share.”
Starting last year, Kazakhstan has paid special attention to developing ecotourism on the basis of national parks, Sarsebayev said.
Kazakhstan is a young country, only gaining independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. It is bordered by both Russia and China.
“Our cultural philosophy in Kazakhstan is based on the coexistence of nomads and the environment,” he said. “That being said, balancing of tourism and economic development is the strategic concept,” meaning environmentally responsible development.
Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country by size and the largest landlocked country in the world. The country’s national parks range from desert parks like Altyn-Emel National Park (with its singing sand—a large dune that makes noise as the wind passes over its crest) to mountainous places like Karkaraly National Park, which hosts several endangered bird species (including golden, imperial, and steppe eagles).