I tell people abroad about Kazakhstan for 20 years. They started to get used to and recognize already. Now my German friends are asking my opinion about the proposal to rename Kazakhstan. "Cool humor" - says one. I want to explain to him that it is not humor, but keep quiet.
I sit and sigh. It is hard to work with Sisyphus. I just rolled stone up to the mountain, but it could be at the bottom again. Yes, I admit that in my reports I said a few times that one of the reasons why Kazakhstan does not have big tourism is image. And I added that many people in Europe think that all the "stans" are home land for aggressive Islamism. I listed other reasons and they are associated with the negative image or rather a general lack of image. Kazakhstan is, oddly enough, terra incognita for most Europeans. But what can really change the renaming of the country, could it change its image? I doubt it.
Words. Names. Concepts
STAN-Tours, STANorama, Stan D'Art... original, right? My friend David has worked successfully in tourism with his tour company "STAN -Tours" for nearly 20 years. Christopher Herwig, German photographer, released an excellent book "STANorama" with landscapes and portraits of all five post-Soviet STANs - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. I just came up with name for the Central Asian art galleries: Stan D'Art. Do you like it? I give you the right to use for low price.
Even the capital of Kazakhstan has another important STAN: A-STAN-A! Try to remove "stan", what is left? Nothing almost left.
Names and concepts themselves cannot be blamed for the fact that we interpret them incorrectly. We are guilty. We fill them with lives, content and meaning. If the words, names, concepts differ from reality - what is the reason? If the mother calls her son-hooligan an angel, who is guilty? Angel? If I sell rotten potatoes on the market, and there is a plate in front of me, where is written "fresh potatoes"; who is to blame for complaints? Potatoes? Plate? Or I am a cheat?
If tourists do not come, is the name of the country guilty? Or the real conditions and obstacles that tourists know and therefore do not go? For example: complicated visa regime, high prices, a complete lack of reliable information and something else.
Personally, I think that the concept of Stan could be used and played with. Not like borat, of course, smarter. You can even invent words for names of travel agencies working for Kazakhstan. Let's start a creative! We can attract tourists with Stan!
Business. Essence. Reality
Do we actually want them to visit us? If yes, we will do everything to ensure that they like everything here, right? That THEY like? And what is about US? First of all, we should like the country that we would gladly show to foreigners!
STAN is a House, Hearth, Homeland. KazakhSTAN is Home, Hearth and Homeland for Kazakhs. And not only for them, but also for many people who are living in this hospitable country. Kazakhstan sounds nice. I think so. STAN concept is not to guilty for the fact that some people from other countries do not realize, do not distinguish between different STANs. They are not guilty for that…we are! We are guilty that we are not capable to attract tourists with what we already have. Because we want to show them only something cool, unprecedented, extraordinary. Why is it like this? Why we cannot be proud of our STAN without coolness, but with sincere hospitality and warmth of the home hearth.
Tourists do not go anywhere, where is "cool", after all. Mostly, they choose places, where is cute, cozy, nice, friendly. By the way, if we focus on these kinds of tourists, we will get nice guests, and it will be more pleasant to work with them. And if we hang a gold sign "CoolSTAN" to attract only the "big fish", then sophisticated, curious travelers come here, and they see a mismatch with their expectations: "No, no! It will not work. There are places much cooler in the world". Such tourist returns home and will tell everyone that he had been deceived and, in fact, it is "AbsurditySTAN". So it is better to be honest and proceed from what we have now.
- What do you want to show to tourists? - Asks me a designer, who we sit with to creat advertising for tour product of Almaty region for tourism exhibition ITB 2014 in Berlin. - Expanse!
And then I suddenly realize that he talks about the concepts and content that they should agree with each other, preferably in a beautiful and original way.
- Truth - I say with intriguing voice.
- And how will you portray it and do not scare people? - asks he a little sarcastically.
- We take 10 expressive photos of the region and just write on them what we can do for tourists.
- What do you mean?
- Well, since there is no perfect infrastructure yet and impeccable service does not found everywhere, we call it an adventure holiday. Nobody can complain if they bought adventure. Because adventure has part of unexpectedness.
Actually, we had a long conversation, and we raised a lot of questions that we discuss in the Information Center of Ecotourism, where we explain to our guests about modesty of rural life and good-nature of people in Kazakhstan, about the "real" (authentic) experience from our ... Stan!
We actively began rummaging in the photos. After half day, we found 30 pictures. We weighted the pros and cons and chose the 10 that well express a unique variety of Zhetisu attractions, we puzzled over the wording and decided to write like this (in German): Zhetisu, country of seven rivers, sunny south of Kazakhstan, mountains, steppes, deserts, lakes and rivers. Make your own adventure vacation of our top ten! Then there are numbers from 1 to 10 and a concrete proposal of actually existing company, for example, hiking and climbing with Trekking Club! And then we added: Expect surprises!
Then we combined in pairs one of our photo with company that offers concrete and quality tourism product in this area; personally tested companies that absolutely will not disappoint. (Remember about the rotten potatoes!) This is what we made - see the cards.
Since we liked the results ourselves and have unused pictures, so we decided to make posters. Slightly altered the text, added the slogan "nature - culture - hospitality", added our cards - see for yourself. Everything is honest, we do not deceive one, offer what we have.
Now I sit and look at them and what can I tell you? I want to KazakhSTAN! More precisely in Semirechye, on the sunny south of Kazakhstan! Soon I will get in line for visa, print my ticket, come to Almaty and become a resident of this non-STANdard, beloved city!