Interview with Vitaliy Shuptar of “Avalon” Kazakhstan

Eurasia News

Vitaliy Shupter
Interview with Vitaliy Shuptar of “Avalon” Kazakhstan

The Avalon” Historico-Geographical Society and “Avalon” Public Foundation Kazakhstan has been working tirelessly for promotion of responsible tourism in its area of aork since long. The Dispatch News Desk (DND) held an exclusive interview with Mr. Vitaliy Shuptar of “Avalon” Historico-Geographical Society and “Avalon” Public Foundation (Историко-географическое общество “Авалон” и общественный фонд “Авалон”) to know more about this project.


DND: What is “Avalon” and what you are doing in Central Asia?

VS: “Avalon” Historico-geographical Society” public association is a
non-profit NGO which was founded on July 22, 2004 in Karaganda
(Central Kazakhstan) with the aim of popularizing and promoting
knowledge in the field of geography and history, promoting Kazakhstan
in particular and Central Asia in general as travel destinations,
preserving of the region’s natural, historical and cultural heritage,
elaborating of environmental decisions, including development of
ecotourism and alternative means of transport. In the spring of 2007
“Avalon” public foundation was founded in order to provide additional
support of the Society’s projects. At the present moment “Avalon”
HGS” PA and “Avalon” PF work in close collaboration and, in fact, act
as a unified structure with common aims and subject of activities, as
well as common personnel and office.

“Avalon” is a member of The Regional Initiative since 2011 for connecting with South Asia, Central Asian and eastern European tourism market. The Region Initiative (TRI) is a Tri-regional Umbrella of Tourism related organisations. TRI is functioning as a link among three regions—-South Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. It offers blended tours packages, consultancy, networking of tourism organisations, tourism research opportunities, marketing of small tourism stakeholders, promotion of need of usage of renewable energies, advocate sustainable tourism and ecotourism.

In tourism development our project can be roughly divided into those
connected with publishing (guide-books, maps, postcards, leaflets,
photo-albums, etc.), community-based ecotourism development (homestay
and local guides, handicrafts, etc), protected areas development
(management plans, infrastructure development, etc.), consulting
activities and expeditionary projects, having really wide range of
goals. We are trying to take part in elaboration of state policy on
tourism as well.

In addition to the office in Karaganda, since 2013 we have
representative office in Almaty. Geographically “Avalon” mostly works
in Kazakhstan, but our separate projects also affect Kyrgyzstan and

DND: What have you done for tourism development of Kazakhstan in the year 2014?

VS: 2014 is not over yet, but I can already say, that it was a very
successful and eventful year for Avalon in terms of tourism
development. Our activities, as before, mostly cover Central
Kazakhstan and Northern Tien Shan region.

a) In spring we have finalized the project on ecotourism development
in Kyzylarai (Central Kazakhstan). Its main goals were biodiversity
conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in the territory
of Kyzylarai State nature reserve, as well as capacity building and
consolidation of local community of Shabanbai Bi village, adjacent to
the reserve, by means of ecotourism development, control over the
stream of non-official holidaymakers and creation of the respective
infrastructure at the reserve.

As a result of project activities, improvement of the territory of
Kyzylarai nature reserve has been implemented. A number of camping
pavillions and information stands has been installed in the territory
of the reserve. The paths leading to Aksoran peak from different
directions have been marked, as well as a number of other interesting
routes. In the course of field activities more than 120 guiding
landmarks have been made, namely cairns, signs on trees and rocks.

Homestay owners and other stakeholders of Shabanbai Bi village have
been legally organized into a CBT-group on the basis of joint
operation agreement, assuming contributions from tourism work income
into the common development fund, as well as price coordination. A
number of homestays was eqipped by necessary and lacking equipment
(furniture, household appliances, bathroom accessories, etc.).

One of the most interesting results of the project is the first of its
kind tourist map-scheme of Kyzylarai. The pocket map-scheme published
in English and Russian language versions contains map of the central
part of the mountain massif (with marked and unmarked paths as well as
arranged camping sites on it), maps of Aktogai and Shabanbai Bi,
situational scheme of tourist attractions of Kyzylarai, situated both
at the reserve territory and its surroundings and some distance from
it (Zheltau and Begazy mountains), as well as some useful travel
information (transport schedule, useful contacts, some Kazakh words
may be of use for getting arouns, etc.).

Roads leading to the mountain oasis (with distance and driving time
calculations), various places a tourist might need there, including
guest-houses and Tourist information centre in Shabanbai Bi village,
the most interesting and accessible mountain trails, along with
coordinates of the newly arranged tourist camps, as well as historical
and natural sights have been brought by the project team into Google
Maps system.

A number of new tourist routes in the territory of Kyzylarai was
elaborated and passed to “Nomadic Travel Kazakhstan” company for their

b) In August the tourist hotline for those travelling in Central
Kazakhstan was launched. So, now everyone who is interested in tourism
in Karaganda and Karaganda region may reach “Avalon” team at
8-800-080-7212 and get all the necessary information on the topic
(also in English). Calls are free of charge and can be made from every
landline in Kazakhstan, as well as from mobile phones provided by all
Kazakhstani mobile operators.

c) In September within the project on bicycle tourism development we
provided some of the Karaganda city sights with the sign plates, each
of them having a QR code and a trilingual caption “Tourist
information” on it. By using any of the QR code apps on your smart
phone, now every tourist may easily access the respective page of which is dedicated to the particular city sight he/she
appears to be near of. On this page he/she will find the information
(in Russian and English) on history of this point of interest and on
people who were involved in it, as well as a few photos of it taken in
different periods of the city’s development. Our data base hopefully
will be improved and updated: entries on new points of interest will
be made, new information and photos will be added to the existing

d) In summer we have taken part in complex expedition of Kazakhstan
National Geographic Society to Ulytau (Central Kazakhstan). The team
of “Avalon” was responsible for the tourist development segment of the
expedition. A number of mountain routes has been investigated during
the expedition, a lot of historical and natural object have been
evaluated with respect to their attractiveness for potential tourists.
As a result of the expedition “Avalon” has published a tourist
map-scheme of the region. The pocket-size map was published in Kazakh,
English and Russian language version. It consists of the map of Ulytau
mountains, Ulytau village plan, Ulytau region survey tourist objects
map and also contains some useful information for the travellers and
photos of the most inportant tourist objects. The same information was
brought into Google Maps system.

e) Since 2013 “Avalon” in cooperation with NABU, RDF and ACBK has been
engaged in the realization of a transboundary project on biodiversity
protection in the Northern Tien Shan region. The project will result
in creation of an integrated management system of specially protected
natural areas, located in the territory of the region in Kazakhstan
and Kyrgyzstan.

For the tourism development in Kazakhstani part of the Northern Tien
Shan two places were selected: “Kolsai Lakes” national part and Turgen
department of Ile-Alatau national park. During the season of 2014
evaluation of exhisting infrastructure (cordons, trails, camping
sites, signs, etc.) in the protected areas was implemented.
Improvement of territory works (marking trails, cordons restoration,
etc.) are planned for the next year.

In August kick-off meetings with local population and workshop on
ecotourism development were held in Kurmety village (Saty rural
district of Raimbek region), situated in the buffer zone of “Kolsai
Lakes” national park. In Winter 2014-2015 we are planning to hold the
workshops, where local residents who wish to work in tourism will gain
knowledge on guest-houses management and principles of working as
travel guides, as well as familiarize themselves with the important
legal, financial and other practical matters. Hopefully, by the next
season Kurmety villagers will be ready to accommodate and serve their
first tourists.

One of the activities inside the project was calculating recreational
load on 2 trails in selected protected areas in order to approbate a
model methodic of recreational load estimation. Kazakhstani and
foreign volunteers help us in this activity.

Management plans of the two protected areas, including the trails’
passports are in the process of correction as well. The fund aimed at
supporting Ile-Alatau national park tourism activities is in the
process of formation.

DND: Who supports you activities?

VS: It depends. Our activity on ecotourism development in Central
Kazakhstan was supported by European Union and Nature and Biodiversity
conservation union of Germany (NABU), then by GEF/UNDP Small grants
programme. Activity of the same kind in the Northern Tien Shan
mountains is now supported by Federal Ministry for Economic
Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ) and NABU. Some separate
projects in Karaganda, like tourist hotline or tourist map are usually
supported by Karaganda region Entrepreneurship Department. Our new
partner since the last year is the Kazakhstan National Geographical
Society (it supports Ulytau activities). Bicycle tourism together with
bicycle infrastructure development is a topic of US department of
State. Something is done without any external support, because we
simply want to do it very much. Actually, Avalon is a membership-based
organization (any Kazakhstani citizen or foreigner can be a member),
so our members support some of our activities directly, paying
membership fees. We are also highly supported by volunteers, both
foreign and local ones. For example, qualified German volunteers are
coming to Kazakhstan to help us through ASA-Program.

avalon4Readers can contact Mr. Vitaliy Shuptar of “Avalon” Historico-Geographical Society and “Avalon” Public Foundation at