Nurlan kyzy Aliia
Japan surprised me with another treasure such as Hokkaido island. I have never traveled that far and could not imagine such wonderful place with perfect weather. Our group had a very intensive program during this trip. We spent wonderful time exploring best spots of Hokkaido.
One of the lectures I was grateful for, was a lecture by Mr. Paul Haggart about Niseko. I think it was the first time I could observe such passion of a foreigner talking about a place with a totally different culture. I realized how much Niseko gives to people, even to those from other countries. He shared interesting facts about Niseko like powder snow has 10% of water. We learned that Niseko as a ski paradise was first found by Australians, after USA closed its borders after 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York city. Mr. Haggart highlighted main challenges during his presentation. One of them was that in the wider Niseko area there is an over development which makes area unsustainable and causes environmental damages. Also, there is a concern that some Local Governments regulations to overcome over development can affect the long-term viability of the economy. Most of the recent challenges were consequences of COVID-19 such as shortage of staff, lack of restaurants, shortage of service provisions. Mr. Haggart shared not less than eight of the latest developments of the area aswell including hotels, condominiums, and restaurants. According to this presentation there were 4 million 27 thousand visitors combined in 2019/ 2020, which means that this number was twice higher before the pandemic. This fact made me think of how many visitors Kyrgyzstan might attract, if only we could develop area using smart strategies like Niseko.
I thought of Karakol. Karakol is a large city in the east of Kyrgyzstan, located 10 km from the coast of Issyk-Kul Lake and 5 km from the Terskey Ala-Too mountain range. This city is the cultural and historical center of the Issyk-Kul region, as well as one of the most popular ski resorts in Kyrgyzstan. In summer, there are trekking trips and even climbing (40 km away is the majestic mountain Karakol with a height of 5271 m) and in winter there are so much snow. Today, tourism plays an important role in the city’s economy. Not far from Karakol there is Lake Issyk-Kul, and skiers and snowboarders visit the snowy slopes of the surrounding mountains. Karakol has a great potential just like Niseko area to develop the infrastructure and attract foreign investors. I can proudly say that Kyrgyzstan attracts the greatest number of visitors during summer season. In this sense Japan and Kyrgyzstan could exchange ideas.
After Mr.Haggart mentioned that there is over a quarter of a billion people live within 5 hours flight time of Hokkaido, I thought that so many people also could reach Karakol. Many people around the world are just not aware of such place in Kyrgyzstan, for example there are mostly Kazakh and Russian tourists, but we could develop our target and build strategies to reach some European and East Asian countries.
This trip had so much impact on me, on imagining the future of my own country. During our time in Hokkaido we learned a lot about businesses in tourism, local small businesses, sustainable town projects and history of indigenous people of Japan. Hokkaido is the place I will definitely come back.