Returning to Their Roots

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Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Entrepreneur Sodir Azimov featured above
USAID’s Future Growth Initiative

Uzbek Hospitality Brings Jobs and Prosperity to Residents of Rural Communities

In May and June 2021, the Association of Private Tourism Agencies in Uzbekistan organized ten five-day training sessions to promote the potential of family guesthouse tourism for prospective entrepreneurs in Jizzakh, Samarkand, and Bukhara regions. 

The events were organized with the support of USAID’s Future Growth Initiative. Training participants learned the basics of guesthouse management, business management, marketing, and accounting in addition to designing new tourist routes in the region and developing menus of national and European dishes.

A total of 200 entrepreneurs and 100 tour operators and guides successfully completed the training and each has their own story to tell about how the region’s burgeoning tourism industry has impacted their lives.

Sodir Azimov, 36, is a driver from Konigil village, where his primary job is to take tourist groups on local excursions. When guests come to the village, he can organize a serenade by local folk musicians, transportation around town, tours of local attractions, and traditional local meals.

More recently, Sodir has been offering tourists overnight accommodation in his guesthouse. Sodir was a quick study during USAID’s training and mastered hotel management and hospitality ethics. Soon after the training, he launched his own hotel business, Konigil House. Today Sodir’s entire family contributes to the business—his brothers joined him, driving tour groups, and his wife and mother prepare rooms and cook meals at the guesthouse. In the few short months since the family started the business, they hired six people and hosted nearly 350 tourists. “If you are faithful to your roots and the land that raised you,” says Sodir, “any goal you set will be achieved.”

For years, Inobat Gujieva, 36, has been collecting medicinal herbs in Zaamin, Uzbekistan’s ‘tourist gem’. Clean mountain air, picturesque landscapes, and local pilgrimage sites make the area a prime tourist destination. Armed with the information she learned at the training, Inobat put her skills to use for a new travel business. She and her husband applied for a loan and opened a new guesthouse in June 2021. “We love our neighborhood, and we want to inspire our neighbors to show their pride in our culture, teach hospitality, and improve infrastructure. After all, it’s all interconnected,” Inobat says of her decision to enter the hospitality business.

Inobat’s guesthouse can host up to 12 people at a time and in her first three months she welcomed upwards of 100 tourists. Their guesthouse has created 10 new jobs since it opened. The family plans to open a second guesthouse and buy a sports utility vehicle to expand their offerings and take tourists on excursions.

Nasiba Muminova, 30, is an elementary school teacher in Tog-Terak village. Her husband works as the director at the local village school and together they have three children. This June, Nasiba and her husband opened a small guesthouse with some financial support from friends and relatives. Previously, family members and occasionally neighbors stayed at their house, but after the USAID-led seminar, Nasiba and her husband decided to open their doors to tourists.

Nasiba’s guesthouse can accommodate up to 10 people at a time and frequently hosts families. Visitors typically arrive on Friday and stay through the weekend. Since it opened in June 2021, more than 80 tourists have stayed in the guesthouse. The new business has also created five jobs in the village. “Hospitality in Uzbekistan is an age-old tradition—and today it can even bring good profits,” says Nasiba. She plans to open another guesthouse in an old style of wood and brick and wants to improve her English to better communicate with international tourists.

Entrepreneur Khaitoi Khujamova, 54, is a mother of five. Her husband works as an ambulance driver. Without his support, says Khaitoi, she wouldn’t have succeeded. 

In May 2021, the family opened their first guesthouse and have since welcomed more than 100 guests. Due to the pandemic and related travel restrictions, guests have primarily been local tourists, with some additional visitors from Russia.

The family offers their guests hiking tours through mountainous landscapes to the most beautiful waterfalls in the area and holds cooking lessons on preparing national dishes, including manti, khanum, kuva, and plov. During the USAID-supported training, Khaitoi learned the basic tenets of the hospitality business and professional service, from developing a menu to selecting dishes. 

Thanks to the family’s new business, 14 new jobs have been created in their community. Everyone in the Khujamov family supports the business, including sons, daughters-in-law, nephews, and even adult grandchildren. “In general, not a day goes by without work,” says Khaitoi.

With USAID support, since June 2021, ten new guesthouses have opened in the Jizzakh, Samarkand, and Bukhara regions of Uzbekistan, hosting nearly 1,000 local and foreign visitors to date. Thirty-five local residents, mostly women, have gained employment through new jobs created by these guesthouses. “Tourists come to enjoy our pristine nature and national tradition,” explains guesthouse owner Nasiba. “For them it’s exotic, but for us it’s a return to our roots.”

Last updated: December 03, 2021

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