LOCATED at the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road, the city of Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of mainland China is looking to grow various aspects of its fledgling economy, with tourism being prioritised as one of its pillars of development.
Speaking during a conference in Singapore to highlight Kashgar’s potential, the Kashgar Municipal Government’s party secretary, Chen Xuguang, said the city was looking to enhance its tourism infrastructure as well as air connectivity to forge “a new Silk Road in the air”. Cultural tourism would be the main focus of its enhanced tourism development thrust, he added.
“Kashgar is the bridge and window to the east and the west, and as it was in ancient times, a hub, being only a short flight away from major points in Europe, the Middle East as well as South-east Asia,” said Chen.
According to Andy Chee, director of Sinostar Strategic, a Singapore-based firm tasked to promote tourism investment in Kashgar and act as its international marketing representative, the Kashgar government is currently in discussions with various international airlines to start weekly chartered flights from Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Paris. The connections to Singapore and Hong Kong are tentatively scheduled to start this summer, he added.
Also in the pipeline are plans to transform two former consulates in Kashgar’s Old City into luxury hotels. Ang Gao, chief investment officer, Kashgar Development & Investment Holdings, said the city would have seven five-star properties by end-2012, all owned by the the local government, but managed by international brands.
Kashgar’s convention and exhibition facilities will also be given a boost, said Chee. Existing infrastructure such as its sports stadium will be utilised as MICE venues, while new facilities will be constructed, specifically in the east, where a mixed-use development is underway. An MoU has also been signed with Singapore-based Inspire Integrated Marketing to promote Kashgar as a MICE destination.
Currently, some two million tourists visit Kashgar annually, with the majority stemming from international markets. As highlighted by Chee, most of them are high-end, who visit the city on tailor-made itineraries as part of a pan-China tour. The city aims to attract 6.7 million tourists by 2015.
To kickstart its overseas promotion efforts, the Kashgar municipal government signed an MoU with NATAS on February 13 to jointly promote the destination to Singaporeans.
Robert Khoo, NATAS CEO, said details of the joint marketing initiative were still being fleshed out. “When the (Kashgar) municipal government approached us, we decided that it was an opportunity that was too hard to resist,” he said.