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  • UCA students go horseback riding on the Naryn side of the Tian Shan (Mountains of Heaven), whose highest peak reaches 7,439 metres.
University of Central Asia
Promoting sustainable mountain tourism in Kyrgyzstan

Some 245 million people living in mountain regions around the world are threatened with food insecurity, making the mountain communities amongst the poorest and most affected by hunger. Sustainable tourism in the region can be one of the significant contributors in creating livelihood options for the residents to alleviate poverty.

Considering climate change and the need for economic development in the region, the University of Central Asia (UCA)’s School of Arts and Sciences signed a Memorandum of Cooperation earlier in 2021 with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic to develop a sustainable tourism plan for Naryn.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the tourism industry, it has offered time to rethink strategies for making it more resilient and inclusive. With 85 percent of the world’s species living in mountain regions and 60 to 80 percent of all freshwater resources located in mountain headwaters, it is crucial to devise a plan that provides both economic and environmental benefits to the local community.

Devoted to the issues of mountain communities, UCA has offered its services to the Naryn government to conduct research and provide a conceptual framework for cultural and digital tourism in the oblast. It is also providing technical support and human resources for the implementation of the Tourism Development Plan.

UCA’s School of Professional and Continuing Education has designed a special programme on Executive Entrepreneurship Training in Tourism to be delivered to the owners and managers of related enterprises. It is funded as part of AKDN’s Accelerate Prosperity Programme in Central and South Asia sponsored by the European Union.

In early 2020, the University of Central Asia’s undergraduate students had presented a Branding Naryn project as part of their Strategic Communications course, offering short- and long-term plans to promote sustainable tourism. These plans were interrupted due to the pandemic, but the Naryn government has agreed to include it in their 25-year master development plan for the oblast.

UCA’s faculty, staff and students have also produced a short film for the Naryn government to help promote tourism in the region. Watch the 3-minute film here.


Inhabited only by a few Kyrgyz nomads, Son Kul Lake in the Tian Shan mountain range, northwest of Naryn, provides breathtaking landscapes for hiking or horseback riding.
AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer