Tourist sector in Humsan-Aktash area

Ecotourism resources

Location and geography
Villages Humsan and Aktash are located in Bostanlyk district of Tashkent province. Humsan occupies 15,000 hectares along the Ugam river and is situated on the southern; slopes of the Karjantau ridge of the WTS. It has a population of 3,300; people, mainly Uzbeks.

Historical information
The etymology of word Humsan is defined to consist of two parts: “hum” means pitcher, and “san” means stone. It is surmised that one of the mountain peaks resembled the vessel. Another supposition is that the village was given the name because of a pitcher-shaped bend of the Ugam River, and “san” is distorted “say”, which mean river. This village is located at 800 m a.s.l. at the bottom of the West Tien Shan.

According to some estimation the village originated 300 years ago, although its oldest buildings are less than 100 years old. This is because landslides and mudflows constantly changed location of the village. It caused continuous transformation of the house building and distribution, of land plots for horticulture and cattle-breeding.

Before the Revolution, people of Humsan were engaged in metal processing, farming, and small trade. In fact, there formed a community, which, before the middle of last century, was developing under conditions of self-isolation that helped preserve the life-style, language, particular features of building and occupation.

Majestic sceneries, good climate conditions, ethnic features, absence of industrial enterprises and proximity of the capital had caused transformation of the area to a recreation zone. During several decades, summer camps for children and departmental pensions were built in the village. However, after the independence, many of these facilities fell into decay because of the economic hardship of transition period. In the Humsan of today tourism and rest are provided by private sector.

There is a legend about four brothers, the founders of the village. 300 years ago four brothers — Pustynli-buva, Boymushat-buva, Pusala-buva and Shaikhmar-ota came and settled along the rivers inflowing the Ugam river and began to cultivate vegetables, melons and water-melons. The present generations is believed to descend from them.

Population and economy
At present, there are 3,350 residents in the village; 650 families and 570 homesteads. 1,250 of them are male and 2,100 — female. 1,900 people are 17 — 65 years old. 220 people are aged over 65. 50% of population takes part in public works, particularly khashar (an event conducted by collectives on a voluntary basis). No migration was recorded last year.

The local economic situation reflects country-wide difficulties of transition period and decline in tourism and leisure industry that has existed in Humsan for 40 years. A great part of population was involved in rendering tourist services, others were engaged in farming.

50% of 2,200 able-bodied people are deemed unemployed. Currently, the living standard of population is low. 520 families make less than US$3 per capita per month, 80 families — US$3-7, and 15 — over US$15. Last years, people managed to organize households that help them maintain certain economic status. Thus, 450 families in the village have comfortable houses and only 200 families live in uncomfortable houses. 120 families have cars, six families have trucks, four families have motorcycles, and two families have agricultural machinery. 530 families possess 1,300 cows in the aggregate, 11 families own 60 horses. 3,000 sheep belong to 280 families. 330 families have more than 3,500 goats. 20 families keep 60 rabbits. 120 families have more than 2,500 poultries. And only 35 families have no livestock at all.

The local production infrastructure consists of functioning mills, threshing-floors, mechanical workshops, and garage facilities. In the meantime, the market system has begun to develop. Since recently, private entrepreneurs created 16 new jobs, small and medium businesses created 12 jobs.

Natural economy plays a special role in local economy. 180 families possess plough-lands where they cultivate vegetables ind fruits for sale and own consumption. 70% of population is engaged in cattle-breeding, 25% — in farming, and five percent —’ in trade, private transportation, and tourism.

Once again tourism is on the rise in Humsan and reshaping. An overwhelming majority of services being provided by private sector (over 90%) is a, new main feature. Preference is given to tourism development since this activity is more environment-friendly. Agriculture, in particular cattle-breeding, affects the mountain landscapes and increases pressure on the ecosystem. Livestock trembles down the grass and other plants thus causing degradation of soil, decreasing biodiversity, and posing a danger of landslides. Furthermore, a growing number of livestock makes shepherds look for new pastoral lands, sometimes in specially protected areas.

Cattle-breeding is not only an occupation but a kind of investment as livestock is considered to be a main indicator of well-being under conditions natural economy. Therefore it is proposed to develop a less aggressive type of activity, e.g. service sector, and tourism may potentially become a leading branch in the village. Local residents are being persuaded to transfer their investments to building of ‘hospitality’ industry, in particular lodging facilities and trestle-beds, tourist route development, food providing service and leisure.

Roads leading to the village are paved with asphalt. Electricity lines are installed. Water supply is provided. Telephone communication is available. The most effective is the cellular communication. Internet is not provided. Special services (mountain rescue service, the system of forestry, border and militia services) use radio transmitters “Motorola” that improves interaction between these services.

In Humsan, there is one bridge across the Ugam River (built in 1963). Most of the road system here is paved with asphalt and of average quality.

Social infrastructure
100% of families in Humsan are provided with drinking and irrigation water through a water supply system. A rural medical point is available, too.

Social infrastructure of the village provides population with principle public utilities including the water supply system that was built in 1998 and provides drinking water to 100 percent of the residents and an irrigation system that allows discharging excessive water and watering homestead lands.

Also there are two clubs, two libraries, a kindergarten and a day nursery. There is also a public school, where children receive the primary (1-4 forms), incomplete secondary (5-9 forms) and full secondary (10-11 forms) education. The education complies with the requirements of Uzbekistan. Graduates of the school may enter higher school or secondary professional schools throughout the country. Some of them studied and worked on probation in far foreign countries.

Cultural attractions
The national colour and life-style of Humsan being characterized by mountain specifics, the religious tolerance, oriental mind, and a dialect of the Uzbek language has been well preserved because of little outside influence. People of i the village are involved in hand-crafting industry. A major part of handicrafts is used for own consumption and other part has since recently been sold at nearby markets, hi general these items are milk products, dried fruits, apricot seeds, fish, and sweets.

Humsan is famous for its tales and legends that have become an integral part of the tours. Handmade embroideries and knitting work is of special demand. Forged pieces and embossed ware can be purchased from handicraftsmen. A mosque and some houses of local residents can be considered as interesting. Under the school a folklore group of dances and songs “Gulber” has been organized.

Among the peculiarities of Humsan locally cooked food can be named (sauces, dairy products (kurt, curd, clabber) and pancake «yupka» in particular) as well as patch embroidery.

Horse riding is popular. Life of many people, especially those involved in cattle-breeding, is closely related with horses. This fact created specific character of shepherd’s life in Humsan and determines their culture, traditions, and behavior. It relates to certain traditional ceremonies and solemn occasions like weddings and shepherd’s traditions.

The building-style typical for foothills areas during many centuries have been well preserved in Humsan. Houses are built from local building materials — stones, loam and trees. Only window panes and metal articles (gates, railing and fence) are imported. Among the modern building there are health resorts and camps located outside the village.

Historical monuments
In the Humsan-Aktash zone there are religious, historical and archaeological monuments, which can be of interest of ethnographic tourism amateurs. These include:
Aktash (40,000-25,000 years BC) – a cave site in the Ugam upper River;
Baland-tepa (V-VII centuries) – above village Sidjak, on the right bank of the Kulasay river, which is a right tributary of the Pskem River.
A nameless settlement (XI-XII, XIV-XVI centuries) in south-western part of village Sidjak;
Grotto Obirakhmat – on the right bank of Sharsharasay, below village Sidjak;
Gurii Mug – “cemetery of magician”, burial mounds in the north-eastern part of village Sidjak;
Djilga-tepa (Oy-tepa) (VI-XII centuries) – the right bank of the Pskem River, west of village Sidjak, above fortress Mingchukura;
Kul-tepa (Middle Ages) – on the right bank of the Kulsay River, below Baland-tepa, above Sidjak;
Khazrati-mullo (XV century) – a mazar (a cemetery or grave) in the western part of village Sidjak. Three kairaks, one of them dating back to 1412;
Shavkat-tepa ( XI-XIII) – in the south-western part Sidjak, at mouth of Shavkatsay;
Yalovlik mazar – in the centre of village Sidjak there are four kairaks, three of them inscribed;
Khidjikent bazaar boshi (VI-VII, IX-XII) – the site is located on the road to Humsan, at a distance of 40-50 m up from the bridge;
Pustonlyk-bouva – holy place on the bank of Pustaliksay – confluent of Ugam River, 7 km from Humsan village.

Climate and seasons
Surrounding foothills and mountains influence the climate of the area. Winter is cold and wet. The river cools down the air in summer. Downpours fall in spring and autumn creating menace of landslide and mudflow. The temperature rises as high as 40 Ñ (Celsius) in summer, and falls to -15 Ñ in winter. Located nearby, Charvak water reservoir strongly influences sub-regional climate.

Protected areas
Humsan-Aktash is a territory where a great number of bushes, flowers and trees grow, including legally protected species. Medicinal plants have a special status, their harvesting being legally regulated. Present animals include bears, wolves, foxes and wild sheep. Eagles, partridges and fish are representatives of other interesting biological species.

In Humsan village deforesting is prohibited, nonetheless there are some exceptions on the part of tourists. Local governance body prohibits and controls over felling trees by tourists in the village. Thus, visitors are offered to purchase a bundle of firewood prepared in advance by the local inhabitants during sanitary felling trees in leshoz (forestry) at a law price. It helps regulate the state of flora in the region and provides one more source of financing the village.

Humsan is distinguished by the fact that there are no industrial and agrarian pollutants in its zone. However, there are some implications of the industry of Chirchik city (acid rains, smoke and smell of burning) for flora and fauna. Natural disasters like landslides and mudflows which are hard to forecast constitute a certain threat to natural habitat. Natural sites

There are following natural sites, which are of interest of eco-tourists and landscape tourists:
Loquacious cave is located on plateau Ghiza, 20 km from village Humsan, in a funnel-shaped hallow. On the bottom of the hallow, in the exposure of grey limestone, there is a 1*1 m rectangular aperture transforming to a 1.5 m high sloping tunnel. Its floor is covered with lumps, ceiling being actuated. This tunnel is 20 m long and leads to the inner larger part of the cave. A ladder is needed in order to proceed into the cave as there is a 6 m high prominence. Then the floor levels out, height reaching 20-30 m. The cave is so named due to a streamlet flowing through it.
Arkutsay – exposure of loess stratum. The site is 3 km west of Humsan, on the right bank of the Ugam River. Section of the formation represents the wall of a small landslide breakaway and is a stratum of interstratifying loess like loams of Quaternary and fossil soils horizons. The section is unique as it exposes more than 80 m thick deposition of rocks.
Kyrk-Kokyl waterfall (in Uzbek ‘Kyrk-Kokyl’ means 40 plaits) – pictorial waterfall at Pustonlyk – confluent of Ugam River, 9 km from Humsan village.

Tourism infrastructure and services

Accessibility
The nearest big city is Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, which is as far as 90 km (about 2 hours) away from Humsan. Large neighboring settlements are village Charvak located 5 km (10 minutes) away and district centre Gazelkent — 35 km away (30 minutes). The nearest international airport is in Tashkent.

To get from Gazalkent to Humsan by public transport takes 30-40 minutes. Public transport goes from Tashkent to Humsan village times a day (duration 2,5 hours), the nearest railway’ station is Khodjakent, from where it takes 5 min. to get to Humsan by taxi.

Other centers of tourism, Chimgan and Brichmulla, are located 40 km (1 h.) and 60 km (1 h.) from Humsan, respectively.

Humsan has good accessibility in summertime. It is possible to use a car and a middle-class bus (minibus). Alternative routes are railway Tashkent-Khodjikent (3 times a day) and continue to Humsan by taxi. It is necessary to improve the quality of the roads in the area and protection from landslides is needed.

Tourism conditions and services
Humsan has picturesque landscapes of hills, mountain slopes, gorgeous canyon of the Ugam river, bush-covered hills, and karst leaves. Waterfall “Forty braids” is also located here, on the tributary Pustaliksay. The Chirchik River and Charvak water reservoir are within the reach, too. From peaks the Karjantau ridge one can view a considerable part of the valley with villages and natural landscapes located there.

Private guesthouses
On the territory of Humsan village there are several zones of resort, part of which has become worthless and destroyed, the other part is privatized and used for private purposes (not always tourist ones), another is under the supervision of frontier service that makes access to it considerably limited. Hotels are not available.

Meanwhile the residents of Humsan are creating accommodation infrastructure themselves. There are about 15 guesthouses i providing for five to 20 tourists open and covered facilities for accommodation (houses, trestle-beds, cottages, tents). Some visitors install tents they brought with them. There are no yurts, but during hiking, short-term stays at chabans’ (shepherds) places are possible (loam houses and tents). It is also possible to rest at private houses and open-air accommodations (trestle-beds) at places as follows:
• On mountain slopes;
• Along the Ugam river (trestle-beds, tents and camp-beds);
• In tents (tourists themselves decide where to put up a tent);
• In the mountains (at shepherd’s dwellings).
• In the village one can buy souvenirs from local handicraftsmen, try and eat locally cooked food, in particular sauces, dairy products (kurt, curds, clabber) and pancakes “yupka”. Any of local residents will tell you how to find a place where all these items are available. Prices are moderate and affordable for tourists. There is no crime in the area. Local population is friendly and hospitable towards visitors. Uzbek and Russian language are widely used. Youth has even access to learn some foreign languages (some communication in English and French is possible).

Sanatorium “Humsan” is a spa treatment facility admitting up to 500 visitors and functioning all year round. Today it is loaded 10 percent of its total capacity. This sanatorium is specialized in treatment of cardiovascular, blood circulation, respiratory and nervous system diseases. Physiotherapy, laser therapy, ozocerite-paraffin, physical training, massage, acupuncture, and phyto-therapy are provided. Single and double room facilities, luxury suites, and cottages are available. In the sanatorium there are open-air and indoor movie-theatres, dancing pavilion, billiard hall, tennis-court, library, bar, sauna, phyto-bar, swimming pool, photo-services, and parking lot.

This facility receives both organized and unorganized tourists.

Rest home “Humsan-Bulak” is a property of the national consumer’s cooperation agency “Uzbekbirlyashuv”. Two-storied buildings of the rest home, capable of admitting up to 100 tourists at a time, function in summertime. It receives tourists in an organised order.

Departmental health-improving summer camps for children function in the Aktash area. Tourism development needs a coordinated and integrated approach involving all relevant stakeholders. This could help avoiding miss-investments and unwanted implications of tourism development. Special attention is to be given to the community, which will use tourism as the main source of income.

Strategy of CBT
The Community-based Tourism (CBT) concept is new Uzbekistan. This concept needs the support of non-governmental organizations (NGO) and youth organisations for example to promote and initiate ecological actions, advertisement of the region, and training, social support, crafts and traditions revival. At present there are no special credit schemes for CBT support. Local authorities provide in general the finances for communal purposes.

State and public support is necessary for CBT development, especially in land use matters, taxation, licensing and registration of businesses, and border regulation. Some development is possible in the framework of the existing legislation:

• Establishment of the Centre for ecotourism (legislation for Strictly Protected Areas, tourism, etc.);
• Development of tourism infrastructure (law on free economical zones, insurance arrangements for foreign investments, entrepreneurship support, etc.).

To revive tourism facilities in the Humsan-Aktash area tourist firms should be more active particularly in the following fields:

• Joint activities with CBTs in tourist product development;
• Level and scope of services development.
• Participation in infrastructure improvement projects in the villages;
• Advertising in home and foreign markets.

It is necessary to conduct trainings for potential CBT participants that render accommodation services and excursions. Uniform standards for CBT should be elaborated, e.g. on:

• Food (quality) and services (tables, chairs, settings);
• Hygiene and sanitary standards (lavatories, shower, baths);
• Rules and regulations, Code of Conduct for visitors (no fires, no cutting down trees, no hunting without license);
• Sign boarding in the village for tourist’s orientation (accommodation, meals, sale, crafts, leisure);
• Market research and reporting.

CBT activities could include:
• Tourist product development (together with tourist firm);
• Services, quality assurance and capacity assessments;
• Village infrastructure improvement;
• Crafts and folklore development;
• Information centre establishment, which can recommend tourists places for accommodation, prices, etc.

Tourist firms could undertake:
• Marketing and tourist product promotion;
• Advertising (mass-media, Internet);
• Work with partners (tourist firms abroad and in other regions of Uzbekistan, transport, mass media, and banks).

Investments could be made in:
• Keeping ecological routes in good condition (paths, direction signs, parking .grounds);
• Accommodation facilities and equipment;
• Communication facilities (telephones, roads);
• Cultural, ethnographical and leisure places;
• “Clean environment” campaigns in villages (garbage, uncompleted building, parts of farming machinery, roads);
• Supporting tourism (horses and life equipment sale, communication and first aid training);
• Market and social infrastructure (cash dispensers, shops, medical station).

Humsan-Aktash area has potential for mass tourism development. Key elements are mountains and rivers, landscape scenery and the traditional way of living. One of the areas to focus on is sustainable development of ecotourism in the Ugam-Chatkal National Park.

The potential of international tourism has been limited so far, and will remain so in the near future. The main potential of the Humsan-Aktash area is its proximity to industrial cities of Uzbekistan (Tashkent province). If border regulations ease, then visitors from neighboring countries such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan can be expected, and from Russia and Ukraine as well. A too large an influx of tourist will have negative impacts on the area and that is why tourism development is to be strictly regulated. Some areas may even have to be closed for tourism.

Markets and marketing

The Soviet Period
The Humsan-Aktash area is a territory with a certain tourism capacity. Its tourist resources have been actively used from the 60’s of past century. During several years Humsan suffered economic ups and downs which were caused by different factors. For instance, construction of health resorts and establishment of the respective infrastructure led to raising the material well-being and employment of the population; economic difficulties of transit period led to destruction of the mentioned resorts and worsening of the living standards of local people.

Before the independence, tourism infrastructure of the Humsan-Aktash area was functioning at full capacity, and an overwhelming majority of visitors to the area were organised tourists directed by trade unions or agencies. The share of unorganized tourism was five to seven percent, mostly lovers of picnics (one day visitors) and ‘week-end’ tourists. The period from May to September was considered as a peak tourist season, the peak falling at June — August.

The principle consumers of tourist services in the village were residents of Siberia, Far East, middle zone of Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Existing market
Today, the Humsan-Aktash area is attractive for tourists and visitors in summer period, hi general, the whole infrastructure functions June through August. Social tourism is developed in terms of rendering services to children resting at health-improving camps.
However, the tourism component remains in Humsan. Moreover, the local inhabitants are creating an infrastructure, conditionally called by the experts “topchan-tourism”. Visitors are accommodated on trestle-beds (topchans) in the open air or under the roof, or in specially built and arranged facilities. They are provided with food, leisure and sport, including fishing. Mainly, the tourist objects are situated along the Ugam river. During summer weekends the number of people spending holidays on the territories adjacent to Humsan comes to 1,500-2,000 people and during working days 100-200. It proves the existing demand. Daily turnover of such tourism is estimated as US$10,000-15,000. Meanwhile, demand flexibility is determined by price as well as by quality and scope of services and type of tourism organization in Humsan.

Marketing analysis has shown that 90% of total numbers of visitors to the Humsan-Aktash area are unorganized tourists, who travel and rest independently. The overwhelming majority, 60%, are residents of the capital. About 30% come from the cities and districts of Tashkent province, and 10% from other areas of Uzbekistan, international organisations, accredited at the territory of the republic, and other countries, including Kazakhstan, Russia and far foreign counties.

Not less than 50% of them are families with children; about 30% youth (younger than 29) The number of pensioners is small. Average time of stay in this area is 1.5 day, although in case of unorganized tourism a longer stay is possible, up to 7 days and nights.

The main demand is in May-September, when nature-climate conditions are most favorable for rest. Although late autumn, winter and early spring are “dull seasons”, even at that time traveling is possible (according to the periods of time, activity during “dull season” is not more than 5% of the total average of annual number of visits).

According to the estimations of experts, enlarging of tourist material base of the village and its vicinities would increase the number of visitors up to 3,000-4,000 people per week.

Potential Market

The opportunities for tourism in the Humsan-Aktash area are defined by many factors including affordable prices for services and tourist product, and potential of the area. An average number of visitors to Humsan village and the Humsan-Aktash area is 10,000 and 120,000 people per season, respectively, including one-day stays.

Upon development of the service network and conduction of the more balanced and ordered tourist policy the effectiveness of this sector can be improved with increasing income to US$10-12 million. During the first years, most part of the income has to be transferred to internal invest¬ments (creation of infrastructure, purchase of technologies and equipment).

Humsan is not included in foreign tourism relations. Foreign tourists visit the village in the framework of their visits to the capital of Uzbekistan. A share of foreign tourists is about one percent and duration of stay is not longer than two days. Meanwhile, there are local tour-operators who are interested in the Humsan-Aktash tourist area, such a Elena-tour, Asia raft, Ecosan tout, AST, Ark-Osiyo.

Tour-operators neither cooperate with local communities nor advertise the sites of the area. There are only few cases that foreign tourists and one-day visitors arrive in the area in an organised way.

Recommended type of tourist product:
• Mountain horseback riding tours;
• Mountain hiking tours;
• Folklore and gastronomy;
• Relaxation, rest in wildlife, ecologic tours over the area;
• Fishing, harvesting medicinal plants.

Mountaineering: • A several days route to the highest peak of the Karjantau ridge – peak Mingbulak (2,628 m).
Trekking: • A several days route via pass Ghiza to Kazakhstan’s part of the Ugam river valley (25 km, circular route);”
• A several days route to plateau of pass Ghiza on the Ugam ridge of the West Tien Shan (15 km, radial route);”
• A several days route via the pass to railway station Khodjikent (25 km).
Rafting: • One day route along Uzbekistan’s part of the Ugam river from village Humsan to Khodjikent water reservoir (6 km).
Horseback riding: • One day route along Pustonlyksay to the pass on plateau Ghiza (15 km, radial);”
• A several days route along the Ugam ridge and down to the Nauvalisay river canyon and on to Sidjak (Pskem river valley, Charvak water reservoir).
• A several days route along the Ugam river to village Kiziltal (Kazakhstan).
Fishing: • On the Ugam river.

To be continued…

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