Building a Stronger Central Asian Travel Brand

Speeches Shim

Thursday, May 27, 2021
Brilliantly decorated mausoleums at the Shah-i-Zinda complex in Samarqand draw the attention of travel blogger Cynthia Bil during a FAM trip in Uzbekistan.
Stephen Lioy for USAID

USAID supports Central Asian national tourism organizations with promoting post-pandemic tourism through social media marketing

For would-be travellers forced to stay home by the COVID-19 pandemic, inspiration delivered via social media has proven to be an important substitute for postponed trips and has stimulated daydreams of adventure. Belgian travel blogger Cynthia Bil of Journal of Nomads, a repeat visitor to Central Asia, has used them during the pandemic to envision her next trip to the region.

“I was very disappointed I couldn’t return to Central Asia as planned in 2020 and have been missing traveling around the region a lot. Luckily, the social media posts kept my mind busy with planning my return to Central Asia for more hiking and exploring more beautiful places. I’m looking forward to my return in June 2021!”

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID’s Competitiveness, Trade, and Jobs activity brainstormed with representatives of Discover Kyrgyzstan, Visit Tajikistan, Kazakhstan Travel, and Uzbekistan Travel to address a critical issue for the sustainability of Central Asia's tourism sector: How to keep Central Asia high on the minds for potential visitors as travel resumes in the post-COVID-19 era?

Assessing the needs of all four national organizations and the region as a whole, USAID proposed a social media marketing campaign to bring Central Asia directly to tourists during the period in which they could not come to the region themselves.

“Social media campaigns have played an important role especially in the era of pandemic. They are a powerful tool to attract new travelers and promote tourism globally,” says Vladimir Fedyashov, Chief Public Relations Manager at National PR Center, Ministry of Tourism and Sport of Uzbekistan.

This collaboration sourced travel content from private collections, USAID’s Competitiveness, Trade and Jobs activity photo archives, and popular travel blogs across the internet. It yielded a six-month social media marketing campaign with a coordinated publishing schedule covering all four countries. Incredibly, it reached more than 14 million viewers with over 21 million post impressions crafted to inspire future travel to the region.

For Kairat Sadvakassov, Deputy Chairman of Kazakh Tourism National Company, the results of this coordinated campaign were obvious, “During the pandemic, when visitor numbers plunged drastically and most of the marketing initiatives were on hold, we were delighted to receive USAID’s support. The campaign helped continue building awareness of Kazakhstan and Central Asia as exceptional destinations and encouraged travelers to visit the region. For six months, the scheduled publications on social media highlighted unique travel sites in Kazakhstan and reached 4.1 million users on Facebook and Instagram. We are looking forward to working together again on building a stronger Central Asian travel brand.”

Meanwhile, to the travelers consuming this content back home, beautiful photography and compelling travel narratives offer a constant reminder of what is waiting when travel resumes.

“Not being able to travel for the last year has been hard. Social media is one of my few ways to mentally escape what feels like infinite lockdowns. Tiled mosques, alpine lakes, hikers gazing out from mountain passes... Each post is like a tiny reminder that there’s a whole world out there beyond my pandemic bubble—one that I can’t wait to travel to once it’s safe to roam again,” says Alex Reynolds, solo female travel blogger of LostWithPurpose.com.

To tourism sector representatives across Central Asia, this campaign offers the opportunity to continue highlighting the diverse cultures and impressive landscapes of these countries during a period in which in-person initiatives such as international exhibitions are all on hold – and to continue building brand awareness for future visitors.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, when many global tourism exhibitions were cancelled, this marketing campaign served as an excellent tool to attract tourists to the Kyrgyz Republic and the results of the six-month campaign are proof of this. The Department of Tourism and the country’s tourism stakeholders are looking forward to welcoming many more tourists in years to come,” says Kiyal Kenzhematova, the Deputy Director, Department of Tourism, Ministry of Economy and Finance of the Kyrgyz Republic.

As a result of the campaign, at least for the 14 million viewers it reached, there are now 14 million reasons to like, love, and share their Central Asia travel experiences as soon as tourism resumes.

ABOUT THIS STORY:

USAID’s Competitiveness, Trade and Jobs activity facilitates trade and employment in horticulture, tourism, transport, and logistics across the five Central Asian economies. By incentivizing firms to become more regionally competitive and by addressing cross-border impediments to trade, USAID helps develop a more diverse and competitive private sector and generate export-driven growth.

Last updated: March 25, 2022

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