2016 was a landmark year for Kazakhstan. It marked the 25th anniversary of the independence of Central Asia’s largest country and establishment of diplomatic relations with Japan. This year, with the hosting of the World Expo, the oil-rich republic wishes to highlight its accession to the World Trade Organization and its commitment to global peace and economic globalization.
Just as Japanese Prime Minister seeks closer partnerships with countries around the world as part of his economic stimulus program, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev unveiled his own comprehensive development plan, dubbed “Nurly Zhol” (Bright Path), aimed at raising the standard of living for17 million Kazakhs.
Tentatively schedule for publication in September 2017, the Special Report on Kazahkstan will highlight the country’s role as a regional leader and its importance as a strategic partner of Japan, as well as other countries around the world.
Astana might not be the usual destination found in the bucket list of the typical tourist. But, since Kazakhstan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and the government moved the capital to Astana in 1997, the city has gained the attention of some travelers wanting to see its unique architecture.
Laid out according to the master plan designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, the capital is anchored on Akorda Palace, which holds the offices of President Nursultan Nazarbayev and staff. Located along the Ishim River, the massive building dwarfs the White House and is sure to grab the eye because of its blue and gold dome.
But dominating the skyline is Bayterek Tower, a 105-meter monument and observation tower that has become the most iconic symbol of this futuristic capital, which is currently hosting the World Expo 2017. The event, which is expected to attract more than 5 million visitors, will provide a welcomed boost to the hospitality industry.
Among the first global hotel brands to operate in the capital, Marriott Astana opened its doors in 2014 and has accommodated business travelers from Europe, the Middle East and East Asia taking advantage of the boom in some commodity prices.
“Kazakhstan’s wealth in natural resources, its stable investment climate, and the government’s push to attract international business has put Astana on the map. For these businesspeople, they want a brand they can trust and expect a level of service they’re used to in the West. They prefer Marriott because of the personalized service and friendly staff,” said General Manager Philippe Mahuas.
And staying true to its brand of service, Marriott Astana recently won the World Travel Award’s Leading Business Hotel Award.
“Our people are our wealth. First time customers look for the brand, but repeat customers look for my staff. That is the level of personalized service that Marriott offers, and that’s how we differentiate ourselves,” Mahuas said.
So, where does Mahuas expect to see the hotel’s growth after the Expo?
“Kazakhstan has already been growing by leaps and bounds. The Expo is definitely a landmark event for a young country like Kazakhstan. But its success is drawn from its stable rule of law and its wise use of natural and intellectual capital,” said Mahuas, who believes that a hotel manager is like an ambassador.
“Airports and hotels are usually the face of the country for first-time visitors. Even though I am not Kazakh, I represent the country and we want to show the best of Kazakhstan to everyone,” he added.