Turkmenistan's first visa center in China opened Wednesday in Beijing to supplement the traditional visa application process at the embassy, as the country grasps tourism opportunities brought by the Belt and Road Initiative.
The visa center was established to boost cultural and economic exchanges between China and Turkmenistan, further enhancing their cooperation in various fields.
In the past, trade between Turkmenistan and China was mainly focused on oil because of the former's abundant natural resources. With the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, the ancient Central Asian country is also able to benefit from China's booming tourism market.
"Last year, fewer than 20,000 Chinese tourists traveled from China to Turkmenistan. There is huge market potential. The newly established visa center offers more convenience to travelers, serving as a bridge between China and Turkmenistan," said You Xiangdong, general manager of Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Co, the operator of the visa center.
You noted that the Turkmen government is very optimistic about the Chinese market. "This year, three groups of officials from Turkmenistan's tourism bureau went to China to tackle the tourism market. We are now working on a plan to gather efforts from both Chinese and Turkmen governments and travel agencies to open up the market."
According to You, in the initial stages, the company plans to invest roughly 6 million yuan ($886,000) per year into the program, and leading travel agencies from China and Turkmenistan will also get involved.
Xing Xiaoliang, a tourism analyst at Beijing-based internet consultancy Analysys International, said: "The Belt and Road Initiative promotes China's outbound tourism to a large extent, bringing new destinations. Many travel agencies have already launched related tourism products."
"In contrast to countries and regions that are part of the Maritime Silk Road, such as Thailand, Turkmenistan, which belongs to the continental Silk Road, offers tourists different cultural and consumer experiences, fully satisfying their curiosity.
"For Turkmenistan, the infrastructure construction, products and services related to local tourism are at a primary stage. There is plenty of room for growth," Xing said.