TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – Singapore and Uzbekistan will explore collaboration opportunities in the tourism sector, paving the way for greater connectivity between the two countries.
On Wednesday, President Halimah Yacob and her counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev jointly witnessed the exchange of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for both countries to share best practices on marketing tourism products and destination development at Kuksaroy Palace, Uzbekistan’s presidential office.
The agreement, signed between the Singapore Tourism Board and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Uzbekistan, will also encourage private-sector cooperation to promote quality tourism, such as participation in tourism fairs and exhibitions.
Madam Halimah, who is on a state visit to Uzbekistan, was received by President Mirziyoyev at Kuksaroy Palace. She is the first Singapore president to visit the Central Asian country.
During a delegation meeting, the two leaders had a wide-ranging discussion on several areas of cooperation, including trade and investment, cultural exchanges, tourism promotion and education, said Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement.
Both leaders agreed that there was scope for Singapore and Uzbekistan to collaborate in the area of inter-faith dialogue as both countries are multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies, MFA added.
Three other agreements were exchanged on Wednesday, including one on cultural cooperation that will be in effect from 2023 to 2026.
The two other deals will see both countries cooperate in preventing and combating crime, including terrorism and conflicts between religious groups.
Madam Halimah had a dialogue with Uzbekistan’s main religious leaders before visiting the palace. There are 16 religious groups in the Central Asian country.
At the palace, she planted a tree in the Alley of Honoured Guests. President Mirziyoyev also hosted a state luncheon in her honour.
She will be hosted to dinner by Ms Tanzila Narbayeva, Chairperson of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis, and will meet other women parliamentarians.
This year marks the 26th year of diplomatic relations between both countries. President Mirziyoyev made a state visit to Singapore in January 2023, where more than 10 MOUs were inked between various agencies and companies.
At a business forum held at Tashkent City Congress Hall, Madam Halimah said an exchange of state visits within such a short period is not typical, and reflects the growing interest of both countries to explore closer cooperation.
As geopolitical tensions and fragmentation become a growing concern in today’s global landscape, economic resilience and diversification have become increasingly important, she added.
“Companies need to be proactive in finding new markets and source for opportunities to ensure continued success,” she said, adding that Uzbekistan is increasingly open to foreign investments.
Madam Halimah noted that a number of Singapore companies have successfully ventured into Uzbekistan in a variety of sectors, including master planning, logistics, digital connectivity, education and capacity building.
There are currently more than 20 Singapore companies with a physical presence in Uzbekistan.
A total of 10 MOUs were exchanged at the business forum, including one signed by Changi Airports International to study the feasibility of a new Tashkent airport and provide consultancy and technical services for the operation and management of the existing Tashkent Airport.
Uzbekistan is the most populous country in the Central Asian region with a population of 35 million and a rising middle class. In 2022, bilateral trade in goods was valued at $8.3 million, said Enterprise Singapore.
In her speech, Madam Halimah highlighted tourism as a particularly promising area, as Uzbekistan boasts a rich cultural heritage and stunning landscapes that appeal to visitors from around the world.
“From the towering minarets of Bukhara to the majestic madrasahs of Samarkand, it is no wonder that tourists arrive in droves every year to Uzbekistan to visit these iconic cultural sites,” she said.
Madam Halimah will be travelling to Samarkand on Thursday for the last leg of her state visit.
She welcomed more Uzbek visitors to Singapore, saying this will also help “strengthen people-to-people ties and boost connectivity between our two countries”.
A total of 21 representatives from Singapore-based companies attended the business forum.
Mr Charles Tan, managing director of Plantrip, which specialises in customised tours, said Uzbekistan holds much appeal for travellers from Singapore.
“It has seasonal appeal such as newly opened ski resorts, beautiful architecture and buildings such as mausoleums and madrasahs for religious tourism. The food is good and there are many workshops where people can view craftsmen at work,” he added.
Amirsoy, for instance, is a ski resort about 1½ hours by road from Tashkent, which opened during the Covid-19 pandemic, said Mr Tan, who is also secretary-general of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore.
At the forum, he exchanged an MOU with Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism aimed at promoting closer cooperation in developing existing and new tourist routes.
Source : Straits Times