Posted: May 25th, 2022
The branding of Kazakhstan as a tourist destination ‘Branding’ is a critical component of selling any product or service and this is no less true in regards to marketing a tourist destination than it is of a container of soap or a car rental company. When marketing to tourists, it is essential to convey a brand’s unique value to likely purchasers. “For destinations, effective differentiation is critical given the increasingly competitive nature of tourism markets, where many places offering similar features are becoming substitutable” (Pike 2009: 857). In the case of Kazakhstan, one would be marketing a country which has not traditionally been a destination of choice for many tourists. However, exoticism can also have a certain appeal for a certain ‘type’ of tourist. A former republic of the U.S.S.R., Kazakhstan is now mainly known for its rich oil and gas resources but it is striving to increase its potential revenue as a tourist attraction to Westerners.
Brand equity for Kazakhstan
Perhaps the most unique feature of Kazakhstan in the eyes of a likely tourist is its untouched quality. Relatively protected from the modernization of the West, much of its Central Asian Mongol culture and architecture has been preserved. According to its tourist destination website, the “unique culture of Kazakhstan is a reason to travel to Kazakhstan for many tourists. Almost in every corner of the republic, a visitor, interested in real life of Kazakh people – their traditions, rituals, art and culture, will find many things of interest” (Kazakhstan travel information, 2013, Visit Kazakhstan). Rather than a relaxing destination where visitors can feel at home, Kazakhstan stresses its essential difference from the West as a critical reason to make the trek to its borders.
The exoticism of the natural world is another component of marketing Kazakhstan. The country is home to rare species of wildlife such as the snow leopard and many unique native plants. “In order to preserve such a rich world of plants and wildlife, a network of national parks and nature reserves were established in the country. Recently, these protected areas have become accessible to visitors” (Kazakhstan travel information, 2013, Visit Kazakhstan). Thus Kazakhstan is desperately trying to raise awareness amongst tourists wishing to ‘push themselves to the edge.’ These include sports-oriented tourists like mountain climbers as well as those who merely wish to gaze upon exotic sights. Kazakhstan advertises that “a range of high, middle and low mountains, such as Tien Shan, Altay, Ulytau, Kazygurt, etc. have a beautiful nature attracting tourists from all over the world” and also offer access to amateur climbers (Kazakhstan travel information, 2013, Visit Kazakhstan). Its large winter sports complex Medeu showcases the “highest skating rink in the world” and offers ice skating year round (Kazakhstan travel information, 2013, Visit Kazakhstan). The Chimbulak ski resort offers skiing from November till May (Kazakhstan travel information, 2013, Visit Kazakhstan). Its advertising literature thus stresses both the ‘product value’ of specific attractions along with its attempt to create a general ‘brand’ for the country.
One positive aspect of stressing the ‘adventure tourism’ aspect of Kazakhstan is this type of ‘off the beaten path’ traveling is increasingly popular. “Adventure travel is resilient and is trending upwards even in difficult economic times; Adventure is expanding into a broader range of activitiesthe value of the global adventure market is $89 billion” (Stowell 2010: 3). Kazakhstan stands to capitalize upon this rapidly-expanding market as a first-mover. Additionally, within the subset of adventure tourism, ‘soft’ adventure tourism is growing particularly rapidly and the availability of resorts within the nation thus speaks well for Kazakhstan’s current marketing and branding approach.
Despite the uniform stress upon the exotic, Kazakhstan also does exhibit diversity in its marketing. It offers natural, cultural, and sports-based attractions. Some attractions require intense physical effort such as its mountain climbing; while others like its luxury skiing and skating resorts less so. It has been said that “one of the greatest challenges… is navigating the often fiercely parochial local tourism industry politics in the design and implementation of a narrow brand positioning proposition, from a diverse and often eclectic range of attractions, cultures, amenities and geography, which will be meaningful in heterogeneous markets” (Pike 2009: 860). Although it stresses its exoticism, Kazakhstan is still making use of heterogeneity in its marketing strategy. “Adventure travelers” are also said to be seeking “meaningful connections with the place and authenticity” and the authenticity of this relatively untouched destination is another selling point in the literature as well as its mountains and winter activities (Stowell 2010:7).
The main criticism of the marketing lies in the fact that Kazakhstan’s website is relatively non-descriptive in terms of the specifics of traveling to the region: there are few attractive photographs of its most desirable destinations. Using the web and social media is critical to market an exotic locale, particularly since the friends of tourists are unlikely to have been there first. Although adventure tourists “are early adopters: they are more likely to go to a new destination or try new products before most people they still take their cues from sources such as magazines, tour operators or even social media blogs and networks” (Stowell 2010:7).
Conclusion: Awareness, image, quality, value, loyalty of Kazakhstan
For a nation still building its reputation as a tourist destination in the West, Kazakhstan’s current marketing approach seems wise: marketing its image upon exoticism. In the future, however, this could be problematic in encouraging loyal return tourism, given that adventure tourists are always seeking the ‘next new thing.’ Its novelty in terms of its diversity of geography and attractions conveys value to the adventure tourist, but the country is still struggling to use social media to its maximum capacity to raise awareness.
Kazakhstan travel information. (2013). Visit Kazakhstan. Retrieved from:
Pike, S. (2009). Destination brand positions of a competitive set of near-home destinations.
Tourism Management, 30 (2009) 857 — 866
Stowell, S. (et al. 2010). Adventure tourism market report. GW University. Retrieved:
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