In the second half of 2022, a world-class resort Silk Road Samarkand with medical and business cluster will open in Samarkand. In an interview with the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, Artem Yeghikyan, general director of the resort’s management company, told about what the complex will offer tourists and how it will change their idea of vacationing in Uzbekistan.
- Artem, how was the idea to create a luxury hotel complex with a medical cluster in Uzbekistan born, and why Samarkand was chosen for its implementation?
- I would like to note that Uzbekistan is actively developing the sphere of tourism since 2019, when the President of the country signed a decree “On measures for further development of the tourism sphere”.
The government of Uzbekistan now provides favorable conditions for investors and tourist companies to build hotels and launch flights. Transport infrastructure is being actively developed, work on improvement of cities is going on, the range of trade services is expanding, and overall service for tourists is being improved. For example, a year ago it was problematic to pay with a Visa card even in Tashkent; now it’s no problem at all.
Why was it decided to create a tourist complex in Samarkand? It’s simple. Samarkand is the second biggest city in the republic and one of the most popular among tourists, because it is rich with cultural and historical sights. However, poor hotel base and insufficient level of service in general hindered the growth of tourist flow.
About 3.5 million foreign tourists visited Uzbekistan in 2019. Of these, about 600,000 visited Samarkand, most of whom came here on a one-day visit.
A new hotel complex, which we plan to open in 2022, will allow, according to our forecasts, to bring tourist flow to 1.2 million tourists a year and increase their average duration of stay in the city to 2-3 days.
The name of the resort – Silk Road Samarkand – is not chosen by chance: on the territory of modern Uzbekistan from the II century BC to the XV century there were routes of the Great Silk Road, where one of the important stops of trading caravans was ancient Samarkand.
- Is the complex positioned as unique not only for Uzbekistan, but for the entire Central Asian region? What will be in it and what will it offer to its guests?
- Indeed, the Silk Road Samarkand complex has no analogues in the whole Central Asian region and will become the largest luxury, multifunctional resort in Central Asia.
The new complex is located in the eastern part of Samarkand on the territory of more than 260 hectares. There will be hotels, parks, recreation zones, restaurants, cafes and bars, objects of cultural significance. The full-flowing water area of Samarkand Rowing Canal is in the center of the resort, which used to serve as a training base for the USSR national team in the Soviet era.
We have preserved the function of the canal and plan to hold tournaments here, as well as boat tours around the whole canal for guests of the resort. To the north of the rowing canal there is a business cluster with a congress hall and four hotels.
The southern cluster includes four boutique hotels, each with its own medical and spa destination, as well as an eco-village, the Eternal City historical and ethnographic complex and shopping areas.
As a result, the resort will have a total of eight hotels, four on the north and south banks of the Rowing Canal, as well as a complex of villas near the “Eternal City”. The total room stock of Silk Road Samarkand will be about 1200 rooms.
- Please tell us more about the hotels that are part of Silk Road Samarkand.
- There will be two 5-star hotels at the resort. The first is the Samarkand Regency Amir Temur with 233 rooms, including two presidential suites and suites. This is the first and only hotel in Central Asia, which is included in the Leading Hotels of the World (LHW).
The second “five” is Silk Road by Minyoun with 241 rooms. Savitsky Plaza Hotel, named in honor of Igor Savitsky, the honored artist of Uzbekistan, has the 4 Stars category and 175 rooms. The same category is held by Lia! by Minyoun Stars of Ulugbek, a 170-room hotel named after the great astronomer and mathematician of the Timurid dynasty.
Two hotels (Silk Road by Minyoun and Lia! by Minyoun Stars of Ulugbek) are managed by Asia’s leading hotel chain Minyoun Hospitality. All five-star hotels will have SPA, bars, restaurants and swimming pools.
Four more hotels will be located in the resort’s medical cluster under the Wellness Park Hotel brand. Each of these boutique-hotels will have its own medical specialization. The first is preventive medicine (preventive direction), the second – detox, the third – regenerative medicine with rejuvenation programs and the fourth – respiratory medicine.
In addition to treatment, the complexes will offer wellness procedures such as cosmetology, massage, mud therapy, medical shower, infrared sauna, and pressure chamber. It is assumed that accommodation in these resorts will be available only for those who have bought a health tour with duration from 7 to 21 days.
Guests staying at other hotels of the resort will of course also be able to use services of the required specialists. Medical cluster room capacity is 366 rooms. It is important to note that an international team of doctors will work with guests.
- We have already had a chance to see the historical and ethnographic complex “Eternal City”. It’s still under construction, but it’s already striking with its color. Can you tell us more about it?
- Yes, the “Eternal City” is unique in its concept. All the handicrafts of Uzbekistan will be brought together here. Its guests will be able to touch the history and traditions of the country, get acquainted with its colorful heritage.
Craftsmen will “settle” in the streets of this ethno-town, who will show and tell everything about ancient arts and crafts of Samarkand and the whole Uzbekistan. You will see wood carving, pottery, silk paper, jewelry and carpets.
And, of course, guests will also be able to try Uzbek pilaf, inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List, samsa and other dishes typical of different eras and regions of Uzbekistan. There will be concerts and shows in the town.
- Will the hotel have beach areas?
- Yes, of course. There will be an artificial lake and even a volcano on the territory of the complex, and next to it there will be a beach area. The volcano will discharge to the surface thermal water we found at the depth of over 2 thousand meters when drilling the well.
The water has been examined and its quality is good. The same water will be supplied to the open-air pools.
Cars will not drive on the territory of the resort, only hotel transport. You may also rent a bicycle on the territory of the resort.
And guests will also have access to a beautiful garden, for the creation of which we have brought more than 15 thousand all kinds of plants and tall trees.
- Who will manage Silk Road Samarkand hotels? How and where do you recruit staff?
- An international team was assembled to manage the complex, including representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Great Britain, China, and other countries.
Two of our hotels will be managed by Minyoun Hospitality, as I have already said, the largest hotelier in China. The main backbone is a team of hoteliers from Russia, all with experience in major international projects. The management company’s team also includes specialists from Uzbekistan’s hotel business.
We plan to have about 1700 employees working at the 100% capacity of the resort, 10% of which are expats from Russia, England, China and Kazakhstan.
The rest 90% of employees will be local, from different regions of Uzbekistan. We cooperate with the international Silk Road University of Tourism in Samarkand. The general manager of the two business hotels, Deborah Haynes, came to the institute to give lectures to students. We held an open day at the university and have already selected 400 candidates. We will start recruiting line staff next year.
- Tell us about the transport accessibility of the resort. How to get to Silk Road Samarkand for Russians?
- The Ministry of Transport of Uzbekistan has embarked on a course to improve the transport accessibility of the country. Air transport is being reformed, internal roads are being repaired, new interchanges are being built, of course, simplifying logistics.
It will take only 20 minutes by car to get to the historical center of the city, 25 minutes to the railway station and 15 minutes to the new international airport. By spring 2022, the reconstruction of the airport should be completed, which will triple its capacity and will certainly help to increase the tourist flow into Samarkand.
Now tourists mostly travel to Samarkand via Tashkent. An express train takes two hours to reach Samarkand. From next year the number of trains will double – there will be two trips a day, in the morning and in the evening.
- What niche will Silk Road Samarkand occupy in the hotel segment of Samarkand and Uzbekistan in general?
- Samarkand hotel base is at a low level now. There are only few worthy hotels in the city, the hotels do not pass the international system of evaluation.
Silk Road Samarkand will change the situation for the better. Hotels in the resort, including the Samarkand Regency Amir Temur, which has already been highly rated by the association of the world’s leading hotels, will become a reference point for other hotels on the way to quality transformation.
- It is known that Silk Road Samarkand is also planning to build hotels for pilgrims in Samarkand. Tell us about it.
- Yes, our company is now involved in the restoration of the Imam al-Bukhari memorial ensemble. It will be part of the Silk Road Samarkand tourism cluster.
There are plans to open 4 and 3 star hotels and guest houses which are built according to halal standards.
There will also be a new mosque with 9,200 places of worship. The project will boost demand from Russian and Asian pilgrims. Uzbekistan is a popular destination for pilgrims, who come here for the minor hajj, among other reasons.
- What kind of travelers would be comfortable at Silk Road Samarkand? What kind of travelers are you counting on?
- The variety of objects presented in the resort will allow absolutely any category of tourists to feel comfortable here – whether they come for health purposes or just for a relaxing vacation, gastronomy and art lovers will also feel comfortable here.
Our strong point is MICE. We are expecting delegations from the EAEU, Asia and the Middle East to come for business visits. Our business cluster can accommodate 3,500 people at a time. Before the pandemic, about 220 thousand business tourists visited Samarkand and we expect a significant increase in tourist flow in this segment.
As for the portrait of tourists, they are wealthy people from Asia, Europe, Arab countries, Russia and the whole world. Russia is a very important market for Uzbekistan, the tourist flow from this country makes up 40% of the total volume of tourists coming to Uzbekistan. Let me remind you, 3.5 million foreign tourists visited Uzbekistan in 2019.